I was drawn to The Widow by the blurb and the amazing reviews it received. Fiona Barton doesn’t disappoint with this twisted tale of suspense. Each chapter is titled and told in the voice of different characters. From the first page, I was hooked. Fascinated and annoyed by reporter Kate Waters and her intrusive behavior I had to read on in the hopes she would get the widow’s foot on her bottom. She rudely intrudes on widow Jean Taylor, whose husband Glen had died in an accident the week before, struck and killed by a bus. Ironically, Jean and Glen met at a bus stop, so Barton skillfully brings the story of their relationship full circle.
Jean has been under a great strain caused by events surrounding her late husband. A woman who apparently had low self-esteem, she dedicated her life to being a good wife. It’s apparent she feels unworthy of Glen’s love, fortunate to have been chosen to be his wife. Glen is the dominant force in the marriage and Jean willingly allows him to take the lead in all things. She even states she “learned so much from him”. Those words are ultimately proved true.
When Glen is accused of kidnapping two-year-old Bella Elliott, the lives of the couple are turned upside down. Barton takes us through the beginning of the courtship and marriage before springing the shocking abduction on the readers. As the tale unfolds sympathy for widow Jean grows along with the question, is Glen guilty? Could this man have suddenly turned into a predator? The intimate details of the Taylor marriage are revealed bit by bit, building the suspense. The dark secrets that lie beneath the surface are disturbing and raise more questions. The shadowy secondary characters carry secrets of their own and little by little the cloth is woven. Connecting the dots, erasing those that prove incorrect, only to return to reconnect them kept me enthralled.
Kate Waters desperately wants to tell the story of the Taylor’s, certain there were secrets beneath the surface. But Waters isn’t the only person anxious to learn the truth. Detective Inspector Bob Sparkes was one of the first investigators on the case and he dedicated himself to finding Bella. Suspects appear and are excused along the way. Even Bella’s distraught single mother, Dawn, could be guilty of doing away with her child. It is only by accident that Sparkes stumbles onto his prime suspect. Once his sights were focused on Glen Taylor, he pursued the man mercilessly. His determination is almost as pathological as the crime itself.
There’s certainly plenty of evidence pointing to Glen Taylor. It isn’t hard to believe widow Jean might lie for him. After all, she was lucky to find such a good husband. Yet there are other possible suspects. If we remove the detective’s single-minded obsession, it’s not too difficult to cast an observant eye in other directions.
Even when the truth becomes obvious, the hunger to find out where the revelation will carry story is overwhelming. Along with the mystery of who took Bella and what happened to her are the hidden lives of other characters. There are enough secrets in this book to keep the reader’s mind hopping.
I finished it in one short weekend at the beach and highly recommend this book as an intensely compelling tale of suspense.