Having been given a tantalising first chapter of this book back in June I knew that this book was going to be publicised heavily, what you can never tell though is whether I would agree with the effort. I’ll cut to the chase, I love well-written, original psychological thrillers that are so gripping you don’t want to put them down – this was one such book, real people simply faded into the background as I became immersed in the life of Jean Taylor.
Jean Taylor is the widow of the title and we all want to know, what she knows. It is a quest by the police for the truth, and as for the journalist, she would have us believe that she wants the truth too but we know that just as importantly she needs the scoop, the headline and the exclusive interview. I defy anyone who like me and evidently the author who hasn’t seen the women that stand by their man, tight-lipped, to wonder how much they knew of their husband’s alleged crime, particularly one that is horrific. How do they manage when there isn’t a part to play and it is just the two of them on an evening with only the television for distraction? What do they say to each other? Worse still how do they justify staying to themselves if they have the merest hint of suspicion.
I don’t want to say too much about Glen Taylor’s alleged crime but it isn’t one of the nicer ones, the newspapers label him a monster, suffice to say it involves dodgy internet sites among other unsavoury activities. A crime so awful that it should make any sane woman instantly leave her husband, unless of course she is sure of his innocence. The crux of the book is the investigation from multiple perspectives across four years.
Each chapter is headed up with the date from 2006 to 2010 along with the person narrating; The Widow, The Detective and The Reporter. Between them and in between the cracks versions of the truth leak out but the reader is always aware that each of these protagonists has their own agenda and rarely is there an awful lot of overlap.
Fiona Barton has been a journalist and naturally because of that, the journalist’s role in a big crime story, felt far more authentic than in most crime fiction. Our reporter is a sassy woman, one who has a heart as well as being highly ambitious. I’m not sure I could go as far as I was being led into believing that she was there for the greater good but neither was she a pantomime figure. The Detective and just as importantly the investigation felt totally authentic, I often forgot while reading this book that it was actually fiction as the police team chased theories, spent hours viewing CCTV and questioning suspects and witnesses that blew these theories out of the window. Jean Taylor was just like a woman I know, probably not as stupid as she’d been led to believe but neither was she the brightest match in the box, she cuts a deferential figure, apart from when it isn’t in her best interest and she can be stubbornly quite at worst and evasive at best.
Reading this book was like watching the events play out in real life, except fortunately I didn’t have to wait for four years to get the conclusion. Rarely have I felt that I am actually witnessing events in a crime novel and certainly not as powerfully as I did whilst reading The Widow. In fact This is going to be the book in 2016 that I push on all my book-loving friends – an exceptional read, one that is clever without going in for big show-off moments but won me over through consistent, engaging and thoughtful writing. I have a feeling Jean Taylor will haunt me for some time to come.
I received my copy of The Widow from the publishers Bantam Press and is being published today, 14 January 2016.