Fiona Barton: The Widow

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I wouldn’t have been all that interested in Fiona Barton’s The Widow if I’d seen it on the library shelves, but it was the free title this month from Audible, so I gave it a go*. Some reviewers on Goodreads are enraged with The Widow because of the blurb that promises another Gone Girl or Girl On The Train, and they found it didn’t deliver. But I liked it quite a lot. It’s the story of the abduction of 2-year-old Bella Elliot, told from the point of view of the suspect’s wife, the investigating detective, Bella’s mother Dawn, and Kate Waters, the journalist covering the story. Fiona Barton is an experienced journalist herself, so this aspect of the story is particularly strong, and doesn’t pull any punches about the methods and ethics of the press. Barton is very good too on police and court procedures.

The central voice is that of Jean, wife of the suspect Glen Taylor. But there’s Jean and Jeanie. Jean is canny, disabused; Jeanie (as Glen calls her) is timid, trusting, convinced her lovely Glen couldn’t harm a child. Fiona Barton and the narrator Claire Corbett do a very good job of keeping you off-balance about Jean/Jeanie. Then there’s the weary detective Bob Sparkes, unable to give up on the case even when he keeps running into brick walls, and undergoing a crash course in the new form of door-to-door policing – internet searching and hoovering up information from chatrooms. It’s all interesting and intriguing, and it really did keep me guessing, not so much about Glen’s guilt, but about what is going on in Jean/Jeanie. It’s a solid and well-constructed first novel from an intelligent observer of ordinary people, one that lends itself particularly well to the audiobook format.

*No, no incentive from Audible other than the free book!

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