What it’s about:
When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen…
But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore.
There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment.
Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage.
The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything
A loving husband or a heartless killer . . . She’d know, wouldn’t she?
How well can you really know someone? What secrets live within a marriage? These are two of the questions at the heart of Fiona Barton’s stunning debut novel, a haunting psychological thriller with one of the most fascinating unreliable narrators in recent fiction. Certain to cause a stir in literary circles on both sides of the Atlantic, THE WIDOW (New American Library Hardcover; February 16, 2016; $26.00; 978-1-101-99026-1) is drawing comparisons to recent thriller successes Before I Go To Sleep and Gone Girl. The sales teams at Penguin behind The Girl on the Train and The Silent Wife are comparing THE WIDOW to both.
A British journalist who has worked for the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph among other UK publications, Barton recently shared the inspiration for THE WIDOW: “As a journalist, I spent a lot of time in court. In the big cases—notorious and terrible crimes that led the news—I would find myself watching the wives of those standing in the dock and wondering what they really knew, or allowed themselves to know.” Kate Waters, the reporter in the novel, is a composite of several journalists Barton has known, including herself. “I have been where Kate’s been—on the doorstep, interviewing difficult subjects, minding interviewees at hotels.”
In THE WIDOW, Jean Taylor is the wife of a man who may be a monster. Though never convicted, Glen Taylor was the prime suspect in a horrible crime that captivated people across England and had camera crews camping out on the Taylors’ front lawn. Now, a week after Glen’s death, journalist Kate Waters shows up at Jean’s door, like so many others before, seeking answers—and the scoop of a lifetime. Though Jean kept quiet during the media circus surrounding the trial, she is finally ready to break her silence.
The desperate search for answers—both in the past and the present—takes shape through the interlocking narratives of the widow, the journalist, and the detective who never forgot the case. Each has a story to tell, but some might be more truthful than others. Their stories converge in a shocking ending that will leave readers everywhere eager to share and discuss THE WIDOW.
The Widow is Fiona Barton’s debut novel. It is a psychological thriller that is told from multiple points of view and over dual timelines that converge as the story reaches its zenith.
There is a long list of characters The Widow, but the story is dominated by four key players:
Jean Taylor is the seemingly mousey wife of accused kidnapper/murder, Glen Taylor. She has publicly supported her husband through this ordeal and continues to do so even after her belief in him begins to waiver. How well does she really know Glen? What does she know about his involvement in the missing child case? Was she also involved? All will be revealed bu not by spoilers in this review!
Bob Sparkes is the policeman assigned to the missing child case. He doggedly pursues all leads, and even when the case is cold, he cannot let go of it. He is hot on the case again once he hears of Glen’s death; he realizes there is a strong chance that Jean might tell her secrets now that she is no longer under Glen Taylor’s thumb.
Kate Waters is a good reporter. She is able to apply just the right amount of charm and pressure to get people to talk. Kate is positive she can find out what the widow actually knew of the crime. Fiona Barton’s personal experience as a reporter helped form this character.
Glen Taylor, one time banker turned deliveryman, is the prime suspect in the abduction of a little girl. He swept Jean off her feet when they met, and he has since turned her into his doormat. He’s domineering, manipulative and perverse.
The story starts with Glen Taylor’s accidental death. The narration of the chapters alternates between these main characters. Each recalls the events from Bella’s abduction to the present.
We see Jean and Glen’s marriage as Jean recounts their courtship in an interview. Her private thoughts reveal how their world became smaller and smaller as Glen’s activities were revealed. Although there was not enough evidence to convict Glen Taylor in court, he was found guilty by the public. He and Jean are essentially prisoners in their own home as they spend the subsequent four years avoiding the scathing public opinion. You know that must have gotten to Jean after a while!
Parallel to this story line, Bob, and to a lesser degree, Kate, tell the story of the investigation into the missing child case. There are plenty of twists and turns that had me second-guessing who committed the crime and how much Jean knew/was involved.
The Widow is an engrossing psychological thriller. Fiona Barton has created some wonderful characters. I can’t say that I liked many of the characters, but it takes just as much talent to develop despised characters as it does to create empathetic characters. I did enjoy Kate Waters and Bob Sparkes quite a bit. The stories of the missing child, Glen’s proclivities, and Glen and Jean’s odd relationship are wonderfully wrapped together in this page-turner. I was as compelled as Bob Sparkes was to learn the truth.
About the author: Fiona Barton lived for many years in London where she worked as a senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at The Daily Telegraph, and as chief reporter at The Mail on Sunday, where she won Reporter of the Year at the National Press Awards. Since leaving her job in 2008 to volunteer in Sri Lanka, Barton has trained and worked with exiled and threatened journalists all over the world. Born in Cambridge, England, she now lives in southwest France with her husband and is currently at work on a second book.
Visit Fiona Barton online at fionabartonauthor.com and on Twitter @figbarton. Join the conversation using #TheWidow!