by Fiona Barton
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For fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, an electrifying thriller that will take you into the dark spaces that exist between a husband and a wife. When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen... But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore. There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment. Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage. The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…
The Widow by Fiona Barton shares the tale from the perspective of a wife whose husband has been accused of committing a heinous crime. One often wonders if the spouse knew what their significant other was up to, if they aided them or turned a blind eye. The Widow shares with us such a case.
Through the voice of widow Jean Taylor, Bob Sparkes the lead detective and those of journalist, Kate Waters and the mother of the victim we gain firsthand knowledge as Barton unraveled the mysteries surrounding the case. The synopsis does not mention the crime, so I am not going to divulge that in my review. I will say that Glenn Taylor is suspected of a crime that most will find horrifying, unthinkable and particularly heinous.
Whenever a particularly gruesome new story makes the headlines, you often wonder if the parents, wife or siblings knew about the violent acts, their loved one was committing. We think the same thing when a spouse is cheating. How could the wife/husband not know? I think in retrospect there are signs. Barton does a suspenseful job of showing the many sides of Jean Taylor. She made her decisions, actions and struggles seem authentic.
The timeline goes back and forth between the present and the time of the crime, both through the character’s retelling and the detective’s case. While the crime was horrific, Barton spared readers the gruesome details and for once, I was beyond grateful. We skirted the darkness and I still shuttered.
Barton allows readers to understand Jean Taylor, her marriage and her reaction as events unfolded. We saw the subtle manipulation, the cracks that began to appear and began to understand Jean’s psyche. It was a brilliant case study.
I really wish this was not marketed as the next Girl on the Train or Gone Girl . The Widow is not a twisted/big-reveal type thriller. Jean does surprise us, but I think marketing did Barton a disservice. The Widow falls more in the mystery genre. It is very well written but I fear people will be expecting something different. I became caught up in the case and its characters and wasn’t disappointed but I did go into it with the wrong expectations. I cried for the victim and cringed as we went through the court trial and learned more about Glenn. Barton brought Bob Sparkes to life and I felt the weight this case had on him and his family. I felt for the victim’s mother even as I mentally scolded her. Surprisingly while I didn’t care for Jean, I did sympathize with her and can understand why the mind turns a blind eye, even if subconsciously we know the dark answer. Some knowledge is too great to bear.
The Widow wrapped up nicely giving readers the answers they desperately needed. Forget Gone Girl and the Girl on the Train. The Widow is an engaging mystery that brings us into the heart of a marriage as we gain answer to what really happened.