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By: Fiona Barton
Publication Date: 2/16/2016
My Rating: 5 Stars
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A special thank you to Penguin and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Smartly written, Fiona Barton’s debut THE WIDOW, most definitely lives up to the hype---a wicked, deliciously evil, slow-burning, taut psychological suspense—the author definitely knows her way around the media, investigations, obsessions, and crazies. Even though this is a debut, (shocking), this is not Barton’s first rodeo. Have you read her bio? Impressive.
While readers seem to be flocking to psychological suspense and suburban noirs---2016 brings a mix of the hottest new genre, following the sensational Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.
Barton masters the craft with her haunting creation. (I actually liked it better than the aforementioned). Filled with complex and intimate glimpses into the lives ruled by obsession, crisis, and fear; where mood and characters drive the novel—creating a dark, chilling, disturbing and unsettling tone.
Meet Jean Taylor, The Widow. She is the heart of the story. A complex woman of many faces.
As the novel opens, it is 2010. Jean is hiding out from reporters, as she has done for years. She has managed to stay clear; however, this time there is a different vulture calling, with her own agenda. Kate Waters, a tenacious reporter from the Daily Post. She is crafty and works herself smoothly inside the door, for her kill.
Why the interest in Jean?
Kate wants the story. A trained observer. She can taste the story. The story of Jean’s life with her killer husband, Glen. The real truth about Glen. Bella, the baby girl. He died the previous week, knocked down by a bus just outside Sainsbury. Accident, pushed, or suicide?
Is Jean really sad about Glen dying? Or, did she just dream of him dying. (with a devious smile). A grieving widow, or a happy one behind her veil?
Jean and Glen met when she was only seventeen years old. She, an apprentice at a hairdresser in Greenwich. Glen worked at a bank. He was a bit older. Good-looking. He was protective, neat, and romantic. She was messy. They were married when she was nineteen.
What does Jean really know about Glen? What does he know about her? The intimate lives of a marriage. A husband and wife. No children. Addictions. For better or worse-a marriage vow.
Meet the cast:
Dawn: A single young mother with a two- year- old daughter, Bella. Abducted from her own back yard.
Bob: The detective who is obsessed with finding the little girl. Desperate to prove Glen’s guilt.
Glen: The manipulative monster. A liar. A pedophile? A murderer? What is he really doing at night behind closed doors in front of the computer. His secrets. Accused of a brutal crime. Is he guilty or innocent? After getting laid (fired) off at the bank he was a delivery driver. A van. He wanted to start his own business. The unraveling. Guilty, not guilty?
Jean: She does what Glen says. Glen is her husband. Is she naive. She loves her husband. He could not do terrible things. Is she too, one of Glen’s victims? Under his control? Does she believe his lies, or is she as twisted as her husband? Does she have her own agenda? An obsession and desire for a baby. She is weak, clever, and manipulative. She plays two parts. Why would a woman stay with a man who looks at child abuse on their computer? What is the hold?
Kate: A strong personality. (Loved Kate) She wants more than anything to be the one to get the truth. She can taste it.
Let the games begin.
Flashing back and from 2006 to 2010, readers learn about the abduction. This event sets everything in motion. What happened to Baby Bella? There is much to explore in the four- year period.
Unprofessional behavior, inappropriate, termination. The end of their dreams. None of this was Glen’s fault. After all Jean (Jeanie) was his world, he leads her to believe. An investigation. Now, with him dead, they only have Jean to lead them to the truth. Where is Bella? Does Jean know what Glen did with Bella?
An intriguing puzzle. Jean is in control. Whether fake or real. Barton’s crafty skills are reflective throughout this ongoing nightmare. An abduction which only took minutes. Even though Jean dominates, readers learn perspectives from the important players.
Atmospheric. Doubt. There’s a dark, growing sense of foreboding; however, the compelling pace stems not so much from the actual action, but from the intensity of the mood. Disturbing, Creepy, and Unsettling.
THE WIDOW plays with your mind…leaving the reader wondering about the authenticity of the character. Barton takes you inside their complex minds. This is where I see a difference of opinions within the reviews posted. The novel plays with the readers’ mind. Internal psychological monsters are at play, versus external ones. Not from action. Intensity. The obsession. The changing of the character from beginning to the end, captures you. The "reveal" is in the changing of your perspective of the characters from the beginning of the book to the end. Inward, versus outward.
Tortured relationships. Obsessions. Emphasizing the psychology of its characters and their unstable emotional states. While reading, you will experience an array of emotion from doubt, fear, disgust, and in the end a satisfying twist.
Psychological suspense crosses suburban noir. Where characters are wounded and flawed, yearning for something they can’t define. A toxic marriage, greed, envy, discontent, fear. Off-balance, driven to crime by mental and emotional forces they’re unable to control—how many are in your own neighborhood? Obsessed, paranoid, desperate to find happiness, and clinging to their sense of security. A scary thought.
An excellent choice for book clubs or further discussions. An author to follow! Can't wait to see what's next.