Books

19 January 2016

The Widow by Fiona Barton, UK, 2016



This is probably one of the most suspenseful books I have read for quite some time.


At the very beginning of the book, we learn that Glen Taylor, accused of some kind of dreadful crime, has been killed: knocked down by a bus. It is his wife, Jean, who tells us this. She is not the grieving widow; in fact, she seems relieved, almost glad. She says: … I was glad he'd gone. No more of his nonsense.

The structure of the book - short chapters, each written from the viewpoint of the widow (Jean Taylor), the detective (Bob Sparkes) or the reporter (Kate Waters), spanning a timeline from 20062010 in no particular chronological order – keeps the reader glued to the page. Each new viewpoint, each new date adds another facet to the puzzle, another layer to the story.

Did he do it or was he innocent?

Photo of Fiona Barton from fionabartonauthor.com
 
The reader is kept in the dark. At times it seems as though the detective has got it right and that Glen Taylor is definitely guilty; at other times it is obvious that Glen is a decent human being unnecessarily hounded by both the police and the media. That the answer can remain hidden until the very end of the book is a result of Barton's writing and structuring skill.

Although the story is all about Glen, it actually revolves around Jean, the obedient, submissive wife, Sparkes, the dedicated, somewhat obsessive, detective, and Kate, the reporter. The media, mainly personified by Kate Waters, is painted as false, heartless and completely driven by sensationalism and 'the story', even though there are a couple of small slivers of light suggesting that Kate may also have a compassionate side. Many of us would happily place a equal sign between the media and a mob of hyenas, and it was, therefore, interesting that Fiona Barton – an ex-journalist – chose to portray her former workplace from such a truthful, if sometimes negative, angle.

I enjoyed the way the characters and the main events gather flesh and colour as the story proceeds. Bit by bit, we get to know Jean and her husband, Glen, and it becomes more and more difficult to know whether the police and the media have actually 'got it right': is Glen Taylor a heartless killer or is he actually a normal loving husband?

An easy read, this is a definite must for anyone who enjoys suspense.



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