Book Review: The Widow – Fiona Barton ***

UK Publishing Date: 14 Jan 2016 (HB & eBook) & 25 Aug 2016 (Paperback). 320 pages.

I noticed one publisher recently describing books in this genre as “grip-lit” and physically shuddered when I read it. Yes it is a gripping psychological drama but honestly – “grip-lit”? What is wrong with these people?

It is such an interesting premise for a book. When you see the wife standing beside her man on the steps of the courtroom or outside the police station you do find yourself wondering just how much they know about the alleged crimes that have been committed by their husband. Were they complicit or did they just turn a blind eye to the activities or did they really not have a clue what was happening? The Widow has been touted as this year’s “Gone Girl” or “Girl on a Train” and in many ways this feels like a lazy comparison.

Jean Taylor’s husband has just died in a tragic accident when he was run over by a bus. His death is suddenly “news”. Not because of how Glen died but because he was a suspect in the disappearance of a two year old called Bella over four years ago. Now that Glen is dead the news reporters are desperate to find out just how much Jean really knew and whether Glen was responsible after all.

The story is unravelled by getting The Detective, The Reporter, The Widow, The Mother and finally The Husband to all tell what happened from their point of view. The timeline moves easily between 2006 and 2010 and unlike some books there is no trouble working put which time period you are in.

There are some interesting characters in this story. News reporter Kate knows what she has to do to get her exclusive. Her skill is in approaching the subject in a warm and supportive way, by making “friends” with them. Glen Taylor is quite a nasty piece of work and even without the accusations being made by the police his interaction with wife Jean is calculating and manipulative. Jean herself is a pretty dark horse under that mousey exterior. Bob Sparkes is the policeman that refused to give up on little Bella Elliott. A shrewd and compassionate man who passionately believed that he was on the right track.

Having finished this book yesterday I’ve been pondering my review for 24 hours and I’m still not sure why I can’t give it more than three stars. It is a great idea for a story but there is something about the execution of it that is particularly unfulfilling, that leaves you wanting.

Supplied by Net Galley and the Publisher In exchange for an honest review.

The Widow

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