review: The Widow by Fiona Barton

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Thank you to NetGalley and Berkeley Publishing Group for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Much appreciated, as always!

Official Synopsis
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…

Oh, my.

If you looked up the definition of “unputdownable”, I feel like there would be an image of this book next to it.

It’s almost beyond belief that The Widow is Fiona Barton’s first novel. It’s so well crafted, the voices of the different characters are so distinct, and the psychological suspense is so tangible as to feel like an animal, breathing in the room. I read this in one delicious bite.

The Widow is ostensibly about Jean Taylor, a rather mousy and unattractive housewife, recovering from the sudden death of her husband, Glen, a suspected child killer. However, when you peel back the layers as a reader, this book is about so many things – Jean is its core, yes, but it’s almost about the justice system, the seedy world of underground pornography, the lengths journalists will go to, to get a story, and the indefatigable tenacity of police officers who sense blood. At the centre of the whirlwind is Jean, the woman everyone wants to speak with.

As Glen’s wife, what did she know? Did she suspect? Was he abusive? Was she complicit? Is she really the typical grieving widow? Who is Jean Taylor, really?

It’s a fascinating journey into the mind of an unreliable narrator, and Barton’s writing is assured, crisp and absolutely delectable. It’s important to note as well, that the journey in this book is the meat of it, and those expecting a “shocking” ending are going to be disappointed. Yes, there are so many secrets and hidden layers, but this book doesn’t turn on its head in the final pages. I urge you, as a reader, to forget wanting to be surprised – and also re-examine why every book has to be this way now for readers to find it entertaining. It used to be that the book was about the journey, not the destination.

What Fiona Barton has done with The Widow is to write a truly wonderful voyage into the quagmire of mental illness, the 15-minutes-of-fame afforded to victims of crime, the hungry, desperate world of journalism and the wilds of the brain… where men fear to tread. It’s stunning and beautiful and absolutely unputdownable. 100% recommended. I can’t wait to read much more from Fiona Barton.

The Widow will be released on February 16th, 2016.


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