Monday, February 22, 2016
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… -- New American Library
THE WIDOW by Fiona Barton is the latest novel that's gathering comparisons to, wait for it.... GONE GIRL and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. As a reader who enjoys the psychological suspense genre, I'm thinking it's a little unfair to constantly compare new books to these two giants! Granted, THE WIDOW has a female lead who just happen to be an unreliable narrator; however, frankly it doesn't need to be compared to any past book. It's a terrific story and strong enough to stand on its own merit!
THE WIDOW tells the story of Jean Taylor, a woman who has recently lost her husband Glen when he stepped into traffic and was hit by an on-coming bus. Granted no one, not even Jean, is really sad to see Glen gone. See, Glen was accused of committing the most horrible of crimes -- the abduction of an adorable toddler named Bella. The police discovered that he had a hidden interest in on-line child porn; and while they were certain they had the right guy for the crime, the case was thrown out because of a technicality.
Through it all, Jean stood by her man. For all intents and purposes, she was the loyal wife who knew nothing. However, the strain from the police investigation and the media hounds, as well as the fallout from public opinion, was extremely difficult for Jean. When her husband suddenly dies, there is a renewed interest in the case, and especially Jean's story. Is Jean really the innocent and loyal wife, or is there more going on than first appears?
I thought THE WIDOW was such an entertaining read. I appreciated the characters and the story, and I liked the way the story was told in alternating viewpoints of the major characters. I will admit that they story ended up being a little "quieter" than I was expecting. Maybe it's because of the comparisons to GONE GIRL, but I was expecting something major to happen; and I kept waiting for that big twist. I won't go so far as to say I was disappointed, but I'm just really starting to hate book comparisons.
One of my very favorite things about THE WIDOW was the character of the widow Jean. She was fascinating, and I was deeply interested in what she knew about her husband versus what she didn't know. It was actually more than just the mystery aspect of her character that I found so intriguing. I've read a decent amount about women who are married to pedophiles, and I struggle to understand how they can honestly not know what's going on... often times in their own houses or with their own children. I find it incredibly interesting to think about whether they are in denial or actually shut down entirely.
As much as I was interested in learning the truth behind Glen (and maybe Jean's) involvement in the disappearance of Bella, I was even more blown away by how well Ms. Barton crafted this story. She did a great job of making Jean's character real, but she also brought to life Sparkes, a very compassionate police officer who was hounded by this case. In addition, I thought her portrayal of Kate, the journalist trying to get Jean's story, seemed authentic as well.
Furthermore, Ms. Barton chose to tell this story mainly through the eyes of Jean, Kate, and Sparkes; and I adored this decision. It totally worked for me! The transitions between their chapters were really well done, and I loved how their stories were so interwoven. I also think the way the truth was eventually revealed was perfect. The tension gradually escalated and almost had me holding my breath -- but not in a shocking, gut-wrenching way. While I was desperate to know the secret, I didn't feel as if the author manipulated me in any way... and that's not always the case in books like this.
There is no doubt that THE WIDOW was a well written story with great characters. However, it was also deeper than the average thriller. The novel explored some dark characters while also examining the theme of lies. I really appreciated the way lies ran through the story from the ones that Glen (and others) told Jean, to the ones that Jean told others, to the ones that Jean told herself!
Overall, I really liked THE WIDOW and I definitely recommend it to fans of psychological suspense and mysteries.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.
Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.