Book Review

Book Review: The Widow

The Widow cover.
The Widow cover.

The Widow: Overview

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy from Goodreads Giveaways. Writing a review was optional, but encouraged.

When people face accusations of involvement in terrible crimes, we often wonder how their family and friends deal with the accusations. Do they honestly believe their loved one is innocent? Are they in denial? Are they complicit in covering up the truth? The Widow by Fiona Barton explores these questions through the eyes of Jean Taylor, the widow of a man accused of a terrible crime.

Jean has had to deal with nosy neighbors, media scrutiny, and public disdain ever since her husband Glen was accused of kidnapping a toddler, Bella Elliott. He was found not guilty, and Jean has stood by her man despite the implications of his crime causing Jean to lose her job and the few friendships she had. When Glen dies in an accident, Jean relishes the freedom to divulge her secrets after holding her tongue for years under the controlling eye of her husband.

We also see the story from the perspective of Kate Waters, a newspaper reporter who’s been trying to get the inside scoop on Glen Taylor for years. Kate is smart, savvy, and self-assured. She knows how to needle her way into a person’s inner circle to get the information she wants and she’ll stop at nothing to get the exclusive story from Jean. Bob Sparkes, a detective who refuses to give up on the Bella case, determinedly re-examines the clues from the failed trial in an attempt to finally get justice. Dawn Elliott, Bella’s mother, frantically searches for her daughter.

My Thoughts

I was excited to read this book because the promotional material compared it to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. This was true in the respect that all three books focus on an imperfect relationship where at least one (if not both) of the people in the relationship are psychotic, but The Widow didn’t pack the punch of the other two novels. The Widow focuses more on how Jean relishes her ownership of the information everyone desires and the freedom to decide where, when, and how to divulge her secrets. There wasn’t a huge twist, and there were no heart-pounding clues to analyze. It was a much calmer journey. We see how Jean allowed Glen to subtly control her life and how relieved she is to be free of him and gain back her autonomy.

Fiona Barton’s experience as a journalist shines through in the chapters told from Kate’s perspective. Kate is manipulative and knows when to turn on the charm to extricate a story that will give her another headline. Every step she takes is cunning and calculated, and it’s interesting to see the game reporters have to play to write the stories we eagerly devour in our daily newsfeeds. Bob’s viewpoint shows the reader the difficulties of investigating a case you’re passionate about when there’s little evidence to work with. Bob continues to search for justice for Bella even after a disastrous failed trial and after Bella’s mother seems to move on with her life. His and Kate’s working relationship was one of my favorite parts of the novel. Journalists are often the foil to police investigating a kidnapping, going behind the backs of the official investigation to find details for their stories, which might hurt the investigation. In The Widow, Bob and Kate look out for each other and collaborate, sometimes grudgingly, but often with mutual respect. They share a goal (get Jean to spill what she knows about Glen’s involvement in Bella’s disappearance) but have different reasons for trying to reach that goal (Kate wants to sell papers and Bob wants justice).

The Widow was an interesting read because it focused on the people surrounding a police investigation rather than the perpetrator and the victim. We saw how crimes affect the families of those involved, the people investigating, and the people who bring the story to the attention of the public. The lack of intrigue and clue-finding disappointed me because of the comparisons to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. I love trying to piece together clues so the book was a letdown in that regard. It has a low rereadability for me and I wouldn’t eagerly recommend it or push it on my friends. It was a fine book, but I wouldn’t have missed much if I hadn’t read it.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Skittles wrappers