Reviewed by Linda Lee
About two years ago I was given a book proof of THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. After I had read it I emailed the publisher and said this is going to be huge, and I was right. My one claim to know what I am talking about! I am going to stick my hand up again and say I think THE WIDOW by Fiona Barton could be the next big thing. Although a completely different plot, it has the same feel about it. Fantastic debut, clever plotting, intriguing characters and a real sense of puzzlement as to what is the truth and what are lies.
Fiona Barton has all the right credentials to be an author, having been a journalist and then a chief reporter at The Mail on Sunday where she won Reporter of the Year. Since 2008 she has trained and worked with exiled and threatened journalists all over the world. An interesting woman in her own right.
THE WIDOW is told in different time frames over a period of four years and from four points of view. DI Bob Sparkes is heading an investigation into the disappearance of a 2 year old girl from her front garden. Dogged police work leads him to Glen Taylor, a happily married man, but Bob is sure Glen took Bella. Kate Waters is the reporter trying to get the scoop on it all. In the past she and Bob have shared information and helped each other with cases, now she is working the case as hard as he is, and uncovers some horrible facts. Dawn Elliott is the mother of Bella, the missing girl, and as time goes on she becomes more used to the media circuit and the money it attracts. Finally we have Jean, Glen's wife, the widow of the story as the opening chapters start with his death.
Sparkes thinks that now Glen is dead his wife can finally tell them what happened to Bella, but it isn't as simple as that. As the story weaves its narrative from present day to the weeks following the abduction, it is almost impossible to decide if Glen is guilty or not, there are other persons of interest and Jean's story doesn't sway the reader one way or another.
It is a compelling read, and the alternating time frames and perspectives give it a real edge. It's also a look into how journalists work and the lengths they will go to to get a story, of how hours and hours of police work are needed to get a break, how a lot of media attention can be a welcome thing for a mother mourning her child, and lastly how the wife of an accused can stand by the man she thinks he is and how the accusations and finger pointing can turn their lives upside down.
Linda Lee is an avid crime fiction reader who works for Penny's Bookstore in Hamilton, New Zealand