Review: The Widow by Fiona Barton


I was very excited to receive a proof copy of this book as I’d seen photos of the proofs on twitter and was intrigued. I managed to avoid knowing much about the novel, beyond the genre and the synopsis, in advance as I wanted to read it without any preconceived ideas.

Jean Taylor is the widow. She is the woman at the side who has stood by her husband, Glen, as he was accused of the heinous crimes of kidnapping and murdering two year old Bella Elliot. The novel is told from the viewpoint of Jean, and also the reporter Kate and the detective Bob Sparkes.

It’s interesting and refreshing to read a novel told from the perspective of the partner of the accused, of the person that is never normally heard from. Jean is an intriguing character because she changes throughout the novel. Sometimes she is meek and mild and kowtows to her husband, other times she is more empowered and will push back against the status quo. She wears many faces but mainly she is the widow, the one left behind. She isn’t a particularly likeable character, at times I felt that I should have more sympathy for her but she is so enmeshed in the character of Jeanie, whom she feels she has to play, that she has too many sides to her for me to like her. She is undeniably fascinating though.

There aren’t really any likeable characters at all in this novel, but just about everyone is interesting in their own ways and that kept me hooked wanting to know more about them. I wish we had seen more of Sparkes’ wife Eileen, as in the very few times she did appear, she spoke a lot of sense. Kate, the reporter, was very believable, she wasn’t likeable but she absolutely felt like a real person to me and I found myself wanting to know more about her.

The police were utterly hopeless in the investigation into Bella’s disappearance. They seized on one viewpoint and ran with it whilst failing to consider any other possibility. They didn’t ask the questions that at times I wanted to scream at them to ask. I did find this aspect of the book difficult because it was obviously important to the storyline that the police were incompetent but I was left feeling that I had to suspend my disbelief rather a lot in order to continue reading.

There is a part of me that can’t help but wish that this hadn’t been billed as a psychological thriller. This isn’t a suspense-filled novel, it’s not really a thriller either – for me, it’s more of a domestic noir; it’s a study in what happens in a marriage when one party is accused of a heinous crime and the other party is trapped in the situation. This is a brilliant and intriguing concept in its own right and I think this novel would have been a better read for me if I hadn’t expected it to be thrilling and twisty with an unexpected or unpredictable ending, and all the things that a psychological thriller should be. I found it easy to work out how the story was going to play out very early on, but had it have been a domestic noir I would have been okay with that because it would have been journey of how it happened rather than who committed the crime, but because it’s a psychological thriller it ultimately falls flat if it’s possible to spot in the first few pages how it’s going to end.

I really wanted to love this novel and I’m sad that I didn’t, but I did still like quite a lot of things about it. I can honestly say that this is an engaging read and I did find myself wanting to keep picking it up to read more. The writing style is great, it flows well. There is a lot that is good about this novel, and it’s definitely worth grabbing a copy when it’s published.

I rate this novel 3.5 out of 5.

I received this book from Transworld in exchange for an honest review.

The Widow is due to be released on 16 January 2016 and is a available for pre-order from Amazon now.

11 thoughts on “Review: The Widow by Fiona Barton

  1. I think far too many novels are currently being billed as psychological thrillers without warranting that description. Shame to hear it didn’t quite hit the sweet spot for you – it sounds like an interesting premise, if not entirely original.

  2. I have been seeing a few reviews saying about books being billed as thrillers that aren’t. It just seems so silly as it changes how you think the book will be.

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  4. I have noticed that label applied to books rather excessively, along with the comparisons to “Gone Girl” or “The Girl on the Train.” Those labels and comparisons do make it hard not to be disappointed.

    Great review, though!

    • Thank you. I’m always a bit nervous of posting reviews that aren’t the most positive but I try to be constructive. I’m just tired of books being marketed as something they’re not as it just leads to disappoint with a book that I might have otherwise enjoyed. I hope this trend passes soon.

    • I hope you enjoy reading it when you get it. I enjoyed it but was just disappointed that it wasn’t what it is being marketed as. It’s still a great story and the characters are fascinating.

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