The Widow - Fiona Barton - a different point of view
Having been lucky enough to be offered and sent a copy of this already well publicised book in advance of publication for a review, I wanted to be blown away by what is being described as "the ultimate psychological thriller" but I have mixed feelings now I've finished it. I'm sitting on the fence somewhat, because I liked it enough to keep reading and wondering but didn't like it enough to want to shout about it.
On the one hand it kept me reading late into the night, it's a competent page turner and rather cleverly written, jumping about in time, over a few years, there are a few deliberate red herrings and hints at some massive twist coming.
We know at the beginning that Glen Taylor is dead, that’s obvious without even picking up the book, as it’s told in retrospect by his widow Jean. Jean stood by Glen throughout his trial for the abduction of a child and as she prepares to tell her story to the press we are permitted insight to what the past few years have been like for her since little toddler Bella went missing from her Mums front garden and the finger of suspicion begins to point at Glen.
As Jean begins to talk to a reporter about her exclusive inside story, we are taken back in time to just after Bella is abducted, to earlier in Jean and Glen's marriage and a picture of a pretty loveless marriage emerges.
For me it doesn't have the required elements of a psychological thriller. The twists and turns, the great reveal, the OMG moment which are so essential for this type of book to work for me just weren't there. The ending was completely predictable and felt like a real let down. I kept thinking "it's going to be something different" - and it wasn't. It's more or less a straightforward story of a police investigation into a missing child, and the story behind the husband suspected of this crime from the perspective of his wife.
Oh and the characters, they are in the main, bland and shallow and completely unlikeable. Even when the police bungle the investigation, I only become mildly exasperated with them. I'm all for dark, despicable flawed characters the ones you love to hate but I just couldn't summon up enough emotion to care enough about one single character in this story, to be secretly rooting for them despite their flaws, to be appalled or horrified or annoyed by them or feel any sympathy and I still don't grasp their motives. They were just sad little people with even sadder little lives that I got sucked into for a while.
Jean has a few very unpleasant character traits, I almost worked up enough dislike to despise her and at one point felt a smidgeon of sympathy but on the whole I just wanted to shake my head and tell her she was a misguided fool.
However there was something very compelling about being on the wrong side of the fence regarding a missing child, I've read a few books recently which explores this theme from the viewpoint of the family of the abducted child but although we are introduced to Bella's Mum is from the viewpoint of the people on the wrong side of the police investigation.
If you like police dramas and murder investigations you may love this story written from a different viewpoint but don’t expect a twisty edge of your seat psychological screamer because if you do, like me you may feel a little let down by the time you reach the end.
The Official blurb from Goodreads:
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.