Book Review: The Widow, by Fiona Barton

Publisher: Bantam Press (An imprint of Transworld)  |  Publication date: 14th January 2016

The Widow Review

The Widow CoverThe Widow is an utterly compelling merry-go-round of suspicions and lies. It follows the fly-on-the-wall account of a wife who is married to a man accused of an unimaginable crime.

I only started out by having a little peek inside this book with it’s darkly, intriguing cover, you know, just a little nibble to gauge what all the fuss was about. This turned into reading a couple of chapters, then ten, until it ended in my devouring it all!

Now, I haven’t read Gone Girl so I can’t draw comparisons from this best-seller as stated in the book summary. What I can say is that The Widow is stunningly moody and emotionally charged. It sucks you into the shocked world where a child has gone missing, while grappling with the unrelenting efforts to return her home. Although it’s not a fast-paced book, I found every chapter engaging; the drip, drip, drip of the pages offers a twisted mind game of a read.

The Widow’s story, aka Jean Taylor, is highly sought after. She’s the inoffensive and dutiful wife, staying resolutely silent despite being weary of the constant media attention and vile attacks from the public. Jean’s now just trying to function without her ‘wonderful Glen’, who was the main focus of the police investigation into the child’s disappearance. Due to her husband’s unexpected death, Jean is given numerous opportunities to tell her side of the story about living with a monster, or not, as the case may be. Never before has she bowed to pressure to speak of her husband or her suffocating life with him, until a reporter with techniques of getting her foot through the door slowly works to gain The Widow’s trust and scoop the exclusive the entire country has been waiting for.

Through a series of chapters alternating between Jean’s story told in the first person, and the reporter’s, the mother’s and the detective’s in charge of the case, all told in the third person, the picture of the couple’s marriage is painted in dabs here and there. Just enough of their life is told to keep you on your toes throughout to leave you contemplating the accusations against her husband and considering the hints of potential suspects elsewhere. The waters get deeper and murkier, as illicit websites and unsavoury activities feature in places, but it’s balanced perfectly to the pace of the story and the evidence being sought to uncover the truth.

The way the story is presented, with subtleties on offer, is like you’re sitting on Jean’s sofa and listening to her story first hand – now that’s cleverly done. I also liked the two-pronged offering: the emotional fallout of how a missing child affects ALL parties involved, and the tirelessly chipping away to reveal the answer to the question that will be on everyone’s lips, “guilty, or not guilty?”

Rating: 4.5/5

(Massive thanks to the Publishers, in particular Ben Willisfor providing an ARC of Fiona Barton’s debut, The Widow, for review.)

The Widow Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

‘The ultimate psychological thriller’ Lisa Gardner

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.

Du Maurier’s REBECCA meets WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN and GONE GIRL in this intimate tale of a terrible crime.

‘My book of the year so far’ C. L. Taylor, author of THE LIE


The Widow Author Links

Fiona Barton trains and works with journalists all over the world. Previously, she was a senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at the Daily Telegraph, and chief reporter at The Mail on Sunday, where she won Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards. THE WIDOW is her first novel. Born in Cambridge, she current lives in south-west France.