Originally published March 2016
I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of over the “It’s the next Gone Girl!” comment every time there’s a new thriller/mystery written by a woman with a female lead in the story. We’ve all used the reference. Time to move on.
“The Widow” by Fiona Barton stands on its own. And it’s not the next “Gone Girl” or “Girl on the Train.” Because Jean Taylor is not a complete psychopath hellbent on destroying her husband’s life, as delicious as that was to read. No. Jean is just a widow with her secrets.
Barton has put together a fantastic debut effort–a back-and-forth tale between past and present in the lives of Glen and Jean Taylor, an old-school married couple whose beliefs and behaviors aren’t necessarily consistent with a modern view of marriage.
It’s Glen that courts Jean aggressively, succeeding in getting the teen girl to fall for the older guy. And it’s Glen that pretty much rules the roost–from where they live to how to decorate. And it’s Glen that has a few less than savory hobbies that land him in hot water with the police and Officer Bob Sparkes.
When a toddler, Bella Elliott, goes missing, Sparkes’ obsession with the case propels him to find an answer at any cost, even if the life he’s destroying ultimately is his own.
The book does offer an interesting commentary on the search for truth at all costs, whether it be financial in the case of media willing to pay for the exclusive, the emotional toll on those centrally involved, such as Jean, Sparkes and Bella’s mother Dawn, and even the physical after-effects as experienced by Glen.
So … is Jean a black widow, or just the beneficiary of a bit of good timing? You’ll have to read to find out. Fair warning: If you aren’t big on child abduction stories, or are skittish at the notion of domineering men, this mystery isn’t for you. But if you’re up for a certified page turner and a great quick read, “The Widow” should be on your book bucket list.