The Widow, the debut novel from Fiona Barton is undoubtedly one of the most eagerly anticipated novels of 2016. It has already drawn comparisons with recent bestselling thrillers Girl on the Train and Gone Girl, and looks set to be a hit when it is released in January. Having been fortunate enough to receive a proof copy, I can certainly see why this is the case.
The Widow certainly has all the ingredients of a classic psychological thriller but this is a novel that brings something different to the genre which I found refreshing. In her note to the reader, Barton explains the inspiration behind the story and its protagonist based around her work as a journalist. With the focus often remaining with those accused of the crime there is little thought for their loved ones. How does a trial affect the family? How can a wife/mother come to terms with accepting their loved one might not be what they seem? These are the questions that are addressed through Jean Taylor – ‘The Widow’
Jean Taylor is recently widowed after her husband Glen is killed in an accident. Coming to terms with her husband’s death, Jean is repeatedly approached by police and journalists trying to interview her and investigate her husband’s involvement with an unsolved crime. We learn that Glen Taylor is a prime suspect in a case concerning the disappearance of a young girl, Bella Elliott. The chapters alternate between first and third person narratives each focusing on a different character – detectives, reporters, and Bella’s mother amongst others. The chapters focusing on Jean are told in first person. I felt this was an effective way for the reader to get to know Jean, and to get a glimpse of her fragile state of mind, and her thoughts away from the cameras.
I found the story gripping and there were a few twists and turns along the way to keep the reader interested. I found this novel to be more subtle than other thrillers I have read. It is a more gradual release of information which changes the reader’s perception and what you think you know. This means there is always a bit of uncertainty and the reader is left with doubts over what the outcome may be.
One of the things I enjoyed most about The Widow was the authenticity that Barton’s journalism experience has brought to it. There was a lot of insight into the world of reporting and its impact on those who are the subject of media scrutiny. There is also a look at how journalists see the people they are interviewing and the subtle signals they pick up on. This brought the characters to life whilst providing more clues for both the characters and the reader as we start to piece together the events resulting in Bella’s disappearance.
I enjoyed reading The Widow. I liked that it offered something a little different whilst remaining immensely readable and interesting to the end. I fully expect to see this amongst the bestsellers next year and would be interested to read more of Fiona Barton’s work.
The Widow is due to be published on 14th January 2016 by Bantam Press (Transworld). Many thanks to Ben Willis at Transworld for providing a proof copy for review.