Friday, June 17, 2016

Review of "The Widow" by Fiona Barton

As the story opens fortyish Glen Taylor has recently been killed when he tripped in front of an oncoming bus. As it happens Glen was the prime suspect in the disappearance of a two-year-old girl, Bella Elliot, who was kidnapped from an English suburb several years ago (and never found). Arrested and tried at the time, Glen got off because of a flawed police investigation. Glen's death reminds the public of his alleged misdeeds and his widow, Jean Taylor, is once again hounded by the press. Jean agrees to be interviewed by reporter Kate Waters, who's thrilled to be getting the scoop.

The story is told from rotating points of view including the widow; the reporter; the detective, Bob Sparks; and Bella's mother, Dawn Elliot.

As the tale unfolds we learn that Glen was addicted to online porn, especially images of child abuse (or pretend child abuse, with women dressed as underage girls). Glen was also a manipulative, narcissistic husband who seemed able to con his wife into thinking he was a decent guy who had her best interests at heart...despite all kinds of evidence to the contrary.

Jean seems to be incredibly naive and self-effacing. She realizes Glen's doing something not quite kosher when he shuts himself up with his computer, but she calls it "Glen's nonsense" and pushes it out of her mind. Jean is desperate to have a baby, but tests reveal that Glen is sterile - and he won't even consider adoption. Given Jean's obsession with children one would think she'd insist Glen change his mind or get lost, but Jean just makes excuses for her husband and hangs in there. Throughout the police investigation and trial....and its aftermath...Jean apparently believes in her husband's innocence and supports him.

Detective Bob Sparks is convinced Glen is guilty though there are some other possible suspects. Bob is crushed by Glen's acquital, is haunted by the mystery of Bella's disappearance, and - despite instructions from his superiors - can't let go of the case.

Journalist Kate is thrilled with the opportunity to interview Jean and quickly squirrels the widow away, to hide her from other reporters. Kate is convinced she's going to squeeze 'the true story' out of Jean now that Glen isn't around....but Jean may be more clever than she appears on the surface.

Bella's mother Dawn beats herself up for leaving the child unsupervised in the yard 'for just a couple of minutes.' She starts a 'Find Bella' drive and cooperates with the press and the police, perhaps even going a little too far at times.

As the tale unfolded I wasn't sure who to believe, and I suspected one character after another of being the kidnapper. The resolution of the story is believable but - to be completely honest - I would have liked more shock and awe. This is a good psychological suspense novel, recommended to fans of the genre.

Rating: 3.5 stars

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