Title: The Widow
Author: Fiona Barton
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Synopsis: When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen…
But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore.
There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment.
Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage.
The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…
It seems like every thriller on the shelves is dubbed with a similar blurb. For example, I picked up this book with a single sentence on my mind. “For fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, an electrifying thriller that will take you into the dark spaces that exist between a husband and a wife.” Publishers keep pushing the idea that if anyone liked Gone Girl, they will love every other thriller on the shelf. However, that is not necessarily true. I urge anyone interested in The Widow to come at it with a more open mind, least you are disappointed when the book does not live up to the “Gone Girl hype.”
The Widow is told in multiple point of views and centers around a little blonde girl named Bella who was kidnapped from her mother’s garden. We see the detectives’ search for clues, the reporter who covers the story of Bella’s mother and of the lead suspect’s wife, and the widow herself. Years after the little girl goes missing, the main suspect of the case dies unexpectedly. In his wake, the widow, Jean, struggles to find her own voice among the lies that have built up from years of court cases, publicity, and horrors she could not have possibly imagined her husband involved in. It’s a story of secrets, illusion, and the strain the two inflict on these characters.
I found the mystery of Bella’s disappearance captivating, and it kept me guessing until the very end. Fiona Barton staged the novel in a way that had me continually asking myself: Who did it? Was it Bella’s negligent mother, who uses the media and her own campaign to keep the search for her daughter alive, or maybe the widow—a woman who keeps scrapbooks of infants tucked away from prying eyes in the hopes that someday she will bare a child of her own? In the center of it all stands Glen Taylor, a man who is trialled for the capture of the little girl.
I had a few problems with the novel overall, the first being the structure. Every chapter is dated and labeled with a point of view. This is something that’s common in thrillers, but for this one in particular, I found the timeline confusing. Not because I couldn’t follow along, but because different points of view would often repeat the same evidence or scene the reader had just finished with. The repetition kept throwing me, and I would often find myself double-checking the dates at the start of each chapter for confirmation that I was not going crazy. Fiona Barton does bring a deep authenticity to the subject she knows —that of Journalism. The “reporter” elements of the narrative were the ones I enjoyed the most.
I was thrilled with this complex and thought-provoking debut from Fiona Barton, and I will definitely be reading her next novel when it comes out later this year.