Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Widow by Fiona Barton

review by Maryom

Until three years ago, Jean and Glen Taylor were an average unremarkable couple. Then Glen was accused of the abduction and murder of a small girl, Bella Elliott. Since then, their life has revolved around his attempts to clear himself. Now Glen's dead, and to be honest Jean isn't really sad he's gone, but reporters are besieging her house and at last she's ready to tell her side of the story....

The Widow is the story, not of the accused, but of the loyal wife who stood quietly by his side through court appearances and as he faced the Press. She's seen often enough in newspaper photos or on TV, but no one asks what she knows or how she feels. Does she believe her husband guilty as charged, or does she truly, completely, believe him to be innocent? For Jean the initial allegations came as a shock; her Glen would never do such a thing! But gradually the police investigation reveals a side to Glen's character that she'd never guessed at - so what else might she have been mistaken about? While Glen is held by police awaiting his trial, Jean has to put a brave face on things and face the everyday world, coping with the suspicions of her neighbours, work-colleagues, and even family, and dealing with the barrage of reporters all after a story.

The story is told mainly from three points of view - that of Jean, of reporter Kate Waters, intent on grabbing an exclusive interview, and of detective Bob Sparkes, who never gave up on his belief that Glen Taylor was the man responsible for Bella's abduction. The three story-lines move between the present, just after Glen's death, and the events which were triggered three years ago with the disappearance of Bella, and weave round each other showing Jean's changing attitude towards her husband, the tricks that Kate uses to win her confidence and exploit a seemingly vulnerable woman, and the dogged pursuit embarked on by Bob Sparkes, even at the risk of his career.

 Before I started reading this, I was aware that the reviews appearing from bloggers were a bit mixed - some praising it highly, some unimpressed - but that's always the sort of reaction to get me reading a book and this time I'm glad I did. I think if, from the tag 'psychological thriller', you're expecting Gone Girl style over the top character and events, The Widow may leave you feeling a little flat. This is a much more subtle tale about people who could be anyone you know - your friends, your neighbours, even your own family - and, for me, this is why it works. Jean starts out a little meek and mild, almost adoring the ground Glen walks on, and certainly too gullible when it comes to accepting some of his stories about work, but as events unfold, the balance in their relationship changes till she becomes the stronger partner and her husband reliant on her.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher -
Bantam Press
Genre -
adult, crime, psychological thriller


  1. I'm reading this at the moment, and am loving it! I think the fact that Barton is an ex-reporter makes the book - or characters - more real as she must have interviewed so many people. Consequently, the dialogue is very natural sounding.Your comment about this being anyone you know is bang on - we all know the sort of situations, and the newspaper articles that Kate etc. write, so it all feels really plausible (so far, anyway!) Great review, thanks!

    1. Thank you for commenting. I think in future I'll be watching the partner standing quietly in the background just as much as the accused who the press are making a fuss over.

  2. I've seen this on twitter but the comparisons to Gone Girl I admit put me off checking it out any further (too much of a trend). I like the difference you've noted, it actually sounds more chilling in the way you've said it could be about anyone.

    1. So many books are labelled "The new Gone Girl", aren't they? This is definitely less over the top, and something you could believe might happen.