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Book Review: The Widow

A mystery thriller regarding the sanctity of marriage and the dark secrets hidden between husband and wife. The Widow begins in the perspective of “The Widow” aka Jean Taylor hiding in her home from the press. Last week, her husband, a man at the center of a three-year criminal investigation, was struck by a bus and died on impact. Throughout the trials, Jean Taylor stood by her husband’s side. Now that he is gone, Jean struggles with her place in this mess. Should she speak her truth? After all, the one thing everyone in London wants to know is, what did Glen Taylor do with Baby Bella?

I was excited when I saw The Widow on the bargain shelf at my local Meijer. I had read Fiona Barton’s sophomore novel The Child as one of my Book of the Month selections and I enjoyed Barton’s take on the “who-done-it” motif (I gave it 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads). I was interested to see what lay beneath her debut novel, as it was being compared to the likes of Gone Girl and Girl on the Train.

Barton molds the story through the perspective of “The Widow”, “The Reporter”, “The Detective”, “The Mother”, and “The Husband.” Each story weaves a deeper web into the investigation and constantly leaves you guessing the truth beneath all of the lies. Her characters, Kate Waters (The Reporter) and Bob Sparkles (The Detective) were a delight to see as they are both featured in The Child. I especially enjoy when authors create their own “thriller universe” – where the crimes change but the key players stay the same.  The “crime” in this particular novel requires me to throw out a trigger warning for child abduction and child exploitation. Although, Barton does not include any graphic details (10 minutes of an episode of Law & Order SVU is more graphic than the entire novel);  if these topics are difficult to handle, please give this novel a pass.

Unfortunately, The Widow is not on the same level as Gone Girl. I will admit I fell for the hype. While The Widow is a suspenseful novel, I would not categorize as a psychological thriller.  Jean Taylor is no Amy Dunne (from Gone Girl). Jean Taylor is Betty Draper from Mad Men: Season 1 – submissive and bland. Out of all the character’s in the novel, I liked Jean Taylor the least. I kept waiting for the big twist that showed Jean Taylor’s true personality…but it never came. A shame, because there would have been so many ways too make her character a little dynamic and instead, Barton went with the least exciting “twist.”

Overall, The Widow gets 3 out of 5 stars from me on Goodreads. Other than my disappointment with the ending, I did enjoy the novel. However, not nearly as much as The Child.

If you have already read The Widow (or don’t care about spoilers) and want to know how I thought the novel should have ended feel free to DM me on Twitter or Instagram at @byairandland. I would love to hear your thoughts as well!

I can’t tell her how I started lying awake, wishing Glen were dead. Well, not dead exactly. I didn’t want him to be in any pain or suffer or anything. I just wanted him not to be there anymore. I would fantasize about the moment when I’d get the call from a police officer.
“Mrs. Taylor,” the deep voice would say, “I’m so sorry, but I’ve got bad news.” The anticipation of the next bit used to make me almost giggle.
“Mrs. Taylor, I’m afraid your husband has been killed in an accident.”
I then saw myself- really saw myself- sobbing and picking up the phone to ring his mum and tell her. “Mary,” I’d say, “I’m so sorry. I’ve got some bad news. It’s glen. He’s dead.”
I can hear the shock in her gasp. I can feel her grief. I can feel the sympathy of the friends at my loss, gathering my family around me. Then the secret thrill.
Me, the grieving widow. Don’t make me laugh.
Of course, when it really happened, it didn’t feel nearly as real. For a moment his mum sounded almost as relieved as me that it was all over; then she put the phone down, weeping for her boy. And there were no friends to tell and just a handful of family to gather around me.

The Widow by Fiona Barton (pg 8-9)

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