5 STAR REVIEW: The Widow by Fiona Barton

By Fiona Barton
Publisher: Bantam Press
Publication Date: 14th January 2016
Format: Paperbook (320 pages)
Source: ARC

We’ve all seen him: the man – the monster – staring from the front page of every newspaper, accused of a terrible crime.

But what about her: the woman who grips his arm on the courtroom stairs – the wife who stands by him?

Jean Taylor’s life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she’d ever wanted: her Prince Charming.

Until he became that man accused, that monster on the front page. Jean was married to a man everyone thought capable of unimaginable evil.

But now Glen is dead and she’s alone for the first time, free to tell her story on her own terms.

Jean Taylor is going to tell us what she knows. (Goodreads)


Since reading the excellent Burnt Paper Sky last year, I have really become interested in reading more thriller/mystery type books. Though I have only read two books since then, which were The Girl on The Train by Paula Brackston and After the Crash by Michel Bussi; neither really seemed to come close to Burnt Paper Sky. So, when I was lucky enough to receive a copy of The Widow I was interested to see how it stacked up.

With the commercial success of Gone Girl and The Girl on The Train, there has been a lot of books where the main character is unreliable. The Widow also has the trope and while I have not read the former, I have read The Girl on The Train and in my opinion, The Widow more than deserves the praise and buzz it is currently receiving.

What is so interesting about this book is the way in which Barton has taken advantage of the split narrative of the three main players in this tale. We have the aforementioned Widow, Jeanie; the Detective investigating the disappearance of the little girl, Bella, Bob Sparkes and the journalist who is carrying out the interview of Jeanie after the death of her husband, Kate Waters.

It is through these three characters, we are taken through the story of the disappearance of the little girl, leading to the arrest, trial and death of Jeanie’s husband. Piece by piece the complex story unfolds and with each flash back to that time ten years ago, I flipped between Jeanie’s husband being guilty or at least involved in the little girl’s disappearance. If there was one thing I was almost certain of was the fact that he was involved in some capacity, I just didn’t know how.

Just like Burnt Paper Sky, The Widow shined a light on the role the media also has in the outcome of a trial and investigation. While Kate was not the worst of the media, she allowed us to see deeper into the workings of the press in these things. Each publication or outlet is looking to get that scoop to push up their sales or viewing figures. They will take advantage of the grieving relatives if it means they get that exclusive. Sometimes it can be an advantage and other times it can hinder the case.

Kate is at the top of her game and seems to manage to get the stories her bosses needed, but it is almost at the expense of everything else. Her need to scoop her peers makes her take unnecessary risks. Unfortunately she pushes too far and this causes Jeanie to bolt just when she was on the cusp of the scoop of century.

The last character in the book, Bob Sparkes was the character who I felt so frustrated for. You can tell that he is a good cop and that he can’t let this case go. Even when, due to some questionable decisions and a blooming good defence lawyer causes the case to collapse, he won’t give. He has a need to find out what happened to Bella.

The mystery of the book is not the fate of the little girl, which I had guessed pretty early on, but in the circumstances that led up to it. Little did I know that near the end of the book there was a twist that I did not see coming. Barton wrote this twist in such a way that it isn’t clear cut what happened to Jeanie’s husband. I closed the book satisfied that there was an ending, yet I was still left wondering. This is the sign of a great writer, where they leave you thinking about the book long after you have closed the book.

The Widow is a masterclass in mystery/thriller writing with a narrative that really keeps you guessing to the very end and even then nothing is clear cut. I didn’t think that I could find a book that could match Burnt Paper Sky, but this really does come a close second.

For a debut novel, The Widow is top notch and I really would recommend this book to anyone who loves the TV series Broadchurch as it is on par with this. Barton has instantly gone on my must watch/instant buy list.

5 star







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