The Widow by Fiona Barton

By Ekta R. Garg

February 10, 2016

Genre: Thriller

Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars

A woman stands by her husband’s side during a criminal investigation, but when the husband dies the woman realizes she no longer has to hold to the party line. As attention turns to her and the media and police begin asking questions again, the woman must decide what answers she will give this time around—even if that means revealing a few secrets. Author Fiona Barton shares a mostly compelling story that might have come straight from today’s headlines in her debut novel The Widow.

Jean Taylor has lived every woman’s nightmare: her husband has been accused of a horrific crime. A little girl’s disappearance captivates England, and after a grueling investigation Jean’s husband, Glen, comes under scrutiny. Did he have something to do with the child going missing? Glen denies any involvement with the child, and Jean backs up Glen with fervor. The police pin down just enough information to bring Glen in. Something about his story doesn’t make sense, but in the end they can’t get a conviction.

For four years the Taylors live with the suspicion of her neighbors and the questioning looks of her family. Eventually the scrutiny decreases. Then Glen dies, and the focus on the investigation and on Jean returns.

A journalist approaches Jean and asks for the chance to interview her to get her side of the story. All of a sudden Jean understands something important: she holds all of the power of perception. What she says could either maintain her husband’s innocence or throw a line back to suspicion. Jean must make decisions. What story will she tell? How will Glen be remembered? What of the things she never shared with anyone? And what she does with herself now that she’s free of Glen for good?

Author Fiona Barton in her debut novel follows the territory that lovers of thrillers like The Girl on the Train enjoy. The twists and surprises will definitely satisfy those who come to the genre for those literary devices. Barton will keep readers guessing on the question of Glen’s innocence or guilt almost until the end.

Those sensitive to crimes against children might want to be careful while reading The Widow. Clearly Barton’s background as a journalist offers her access to the gritty details of these types of crimes. She writes with a grounded realism that might turn some off readers; others may find that her ability to tap into the heart of the crime to this depth makes the story that much better.

Also, the story ends up a little convoluted in parts. Barton jumps back and forth between present day and the past, during the days of Glen’s investigation. Jean, the leading police investigator, and the journalist who tries to persuade Jean to share her story all share the narrative by turns, and jumping between their points of view as well as the different time periods forces readers to pay attention. The constant story switches may frustrate some readers and confuse others. They may also contribute to an ending that feels anticlimactic, although it certainly answers all of the story questions Barton poses in the beginning.

I recommend readers Borrow The Widow.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.