Bantam Press have a new domestic thriller out this week. The Widow by Fiona Barton is a well written and readable debut novel in the domestic noir genre. It explores the dark dynamics of a marriage where the husband is a suspected child abductor and the wife his controlled and weak enabler — or at least that’s how it seems.
The Widow is told from the point of view five main characters with the Jean Taylor, the widow, getting most of the air time.
Jean is a complicated character. On the one hand, she’s seems to have been a weak wife. She likes other people to be in charge and she seems able to blank out her uncomfortable suspicions about her husband. On the other hand, she is very controlled in her interactions with the police and the press.
In this post on the Penguin blog, Fiona Barton explains how she imagined The Widow beginning from Jean’s point of view. Jean’s is the first voice in the novel and she’s the central character, the key to finding out whether her husband was involved in the disappearance of a young girl in the summer of 2006.
The second voice, is that of reporter Kate Waters who is set on getting a good story for her paper, The Daily Post. Kate has the knack of drawing revelations from her interviewees and she’s determined to get Jean to talk. She also wants that conversation to be exclusive and one of the most interesting aspects of The Widow is the insights it provides into how the press deals with stories like Jean’s.
The third voice is that of the the detective in charge of investigating the abduction. He’s a likeable if not very effective character and the investigation is perhaps the weakest part of the story. The other voices are those of the suspected abductor, Glen Taylor, and the abducted child’s mother, Dawn.
The time frame of The Widow moves back and forward between the summer of 2006 when Bella was abducted, and 2010 when Glen is knocked down by a bus and killed, to Jean’s apparent relief.
The Widow provides some good twists and surprises and although it’s a light read, it will keep you turning the pages. Book clubs should find that it provides some interesting themes to get a discussion going.
[Disclosure: An ARC of The Widow by Fiona Barton was provided via Netgalley.]