After my last few reading adventures, I was ready to get lost in a good old-fashioned thriller which led me to The Widow. This is Fiona Barton’s debut novel and it has garnered the ever-annoying comparison to Gone Girl and Girl on the Train. I love both of those novels but I hate that every mystery with a strong female lead is compared to these novels. I don’t even like to compare Girl on the Train to Gone Girl because I think they are both very different. But that is enough on my rant on that subject, I could go on forever on that.
This novel is centered around Jean Taylor, who is recently widowed. Her late husband was accused of kidnapping and possibly killing a young girl. He is never convicted but he is considered guilty in the court of public opinion. The police and the press both think that her husband’s death is an opportunity for Jean to open up about what she may know about the crime.
The book is split into different narrations: Jean, Bob Sparks-detective on the case, Kate-newspaper reporter-are the main ones. We also get one narration from the husband, Glen (before his death), and the mother of the child, Dawn. I enjoy the switch in perspective but I think Jean’s narration is the strongest and I find myself bored with the Kate and Bob narrations. I also wish that the big twist and reveal was told exclusively through Jean’s eyes. I think the focus of the story is Jean as a wife and her struggle with what she knew about her husband and dealing with her own demons, so I think it would be stronger with just her narration.
We quickly learn that Glen is incredibly controlling of Jean and that he is clearly hiding a porn addiction. Jean isn’t stupid but takes her job as the complacent wife very seriously. We also learn that Jean has issues of her own. She desperately wants children but Glen is sterile and will not consider adoption. This manifests into an obsession with children, dolls and scrapbooks are involved. I wanted more of this story line, I think it was a strong twist.
Barton does a good job making the reader question and doubt multiple characters for this crime. I really enjoyed the complexity, and that no one is completely innocent. That being said, the ending falls flat for me. She set wonderful groundwork but the ending is predictable and a bit lack luster. Overall this was a good suspenseful page-turner, I am impressed that this is a debut and I think we will see more good things from Barton in the future.