If you have pesky commitments like a day job, mortgage, kids, then picking up The Widow by Fiona Barton, is probably not your best idea. Some books, the best kind, demand to be read from the second you pick them up and The Widow is one such novel.
Jean Taylor is the kind of woman who vanished into her marriage, living an unexceptional existence. A woman who married too young and settled too soon. At the outset of this book, I imagined her a woman far older than I am now, but in reality this is not the case. Everything about Jean’s life is mundane, were it not for one thing. Jean is the widow of Glen Taylor a man widely suspected of having abducted and murdered two year old Bella Elliott. As the title suggests, Glen dies suddenly leaving Jean on her own to deal with both the police and the media. The question is, does she have a story to tell and if so, will she tell it and to whom?
It’s such a clever idea and the main character, Jean, is so well written that although she’s bland to a fault, you just keep hanging on to find out whether or not she actually knows anything. Did she think her husband was innocent or guilty? Does she know what happened to Bella? Might Bella still be alive? Could someone else have taken her? Will there ever be any resolution?
The story develops thanks to the interplay of a few key characters, each of whom pulls something from the psyche of the other. Bob Sparkes was the detective in charge of the original investigation into Glen and is living a life not without its own marital issues, including a potential infidelity. Kate Waters is the journalist determined to get an exclusive from Jean, a story that provides an insight into exactly what it takes to get a that front page exclusive.
Often when we read these stories in the press, it’s the normality that gets to us. That this person was just like us until some turning point and so too with Jean. We sympathise with her, but only to a point, wanting desperately for her to share with us what she knows.
If you want a quick, engaging read, this is it.