"I loved the textured, layered description of a marriage; a relationship between Jean and Glen that slowly, hauntingly, reveals its true self to us."
Parallels have been drawn between The Widow and The Girl on the Train, and I can see why – but Fiona Barton’s story stands proudly on its own two feet. I loved the textured, layered description of a marriage; a relationship between Jean and Glen that slowly, hauntingly, reveals its true self to us.
Glen wooed Jean when he was a swashbuckling banker. Boy, was he Mr Charisma. She fell for his relentless, confident charm – but like so many apparently super-confident men, Glen has issues. One of them is control. He seeks to control Jean; for example, he likes to order her food for her. Think Kate Winslet’s gruesome fiancé, Cal, in the movie ‘Titanic’. Remember that scene in the first-class restaurant?
‘We’ll both have the lamb… with very little mint sauce.’
That’s Glen. Except that Glen’s career in finance ends abruptly when he quits his job to be a delivery driver. His explanation to Jean is that his boss didn’t like him and, anyway, he wants to set up in business on his own.
He also sets up an internet account on his own. Jean isn’t allowed to interact with it. She grudgingly accepts this, describing it as ‘his nonsense’. Really? Has she no suspicions? None at all?
Then Bella is murdered and Jean’s husband is branded a ‘monster’. It’s the trial of the decade. Carnage for their marriage. But Glen gets off – and then he is killed.
Alone at last, Jean is free to tell her story. Uncontrolled; unhindered.
Is she in denial about what Glen did; what he really was? Or will she skewer his memory with the truth?
"All have very different takes on who Glen Taylor might have been, and might have done. But it’s the widow we really want to hear from."
Long-serving Fleet Street journalist Fiona Barton (oh all right, it’s not Fleet Street any more, but you get the idea) draws on all her experience working on big papers – the Mail, the Telegraph – to bring us this compelling murder mystery. Or is it a marriage mystery? You’ll have to decide after reading it. It’s both, probably.
The scenario is, at first sight, simple – brutally so. A little girl, two-year-old Bella Elliott, is abducted while playing in the garden of her home in a British university town. Her mother was just yards away, inside the house.
But that was four years ago, and a lot’s happened since then. Such as the arrest and trial of the chief suspect, banker-turned-delivery-driver Glen Taylor.
Taylor got off. Acquitted. Not guilty. Free to resume his blameless, boring life.
Except that that life is abruptly terminated in a road accident – and then speculation over his guilt or innocence takes on a fresh fury and energy. And of course, the press can speculate with pretty much a free hand – after all, you can’t libel a dead man, can you? It’s open season on Glen Taylor’s tarnished memory.
The story is told through the eyes of three people. Our chief witness is Taylor’s widow, Jean. The others are seasoned police detective Bob Sparkes and newspaper reporter Kate Walter. All have very different takes on who Glen Taylor might have been, and might have done. But it’s the widow we really want to hear from.
Here are a selection of the reviews for The Widow
"If you liked GONE GIRL and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, you might want to pick up THE WIDOW by Fiona Barton. Engrossing. Suspenseful"
"The ultimate psychological thriller. Barton carefully unspools this dark, intimate tale of a terrible crime, a stifling marriage, and the lies spouses tell not just to each other, but to themselves in order to make it through. The ending totally blew me away."
"Stunning from start to finish. I devoured it in one sitting. The best book I’ve read this year. If you liked GONE GIRL, you’ll love this. Fiona Barton is a major new talent."
M. J. Arlidge