When starting a new book I tend to avoid any reviews and try my hardest to ignore the blurb – I like to go in totally blind and let the story unfold. However, the blurb is what hooked me with The Widow. I’d heard a racket on Twitter about how amazing it was and so I jumped for joy when Ben Willis kindly sent me a copy and I promptly dived right in. I read it like a maniac – unable to put it down. I read it whilst I peeled potatoes for dinner, whilst I dished dinner up, whilst everyone else was watching TV, in the bath, whilst drying my hair…I literally couldn’t put it down; I was glued to the pages. And that hasn’t happened in a while.
I reached the climatic ending last night as I lay in bed and almost instantly rushed to read what other people had written about the book. I wanted to see how many other people had loved it as much as I had – but surprisingly I saw some rather disappointing reviews saying it wasn’t anything new or the story was just jumping on the bandwagon of psych thrillers. And it got me thinking. Yes, psychological thrillers are BIG at the moment. Everyone wants a chance to emulate the success of The Girl On The Train and man, are publishers trying their best! Every month there are more and more appearing in the charts and yeah, it’s getting a little tedious. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the genre but they all feel quite samey and very formulaic. A child going missing, a haggard detective, a mother who we don’t quite like, a father and evil stepmum etc – this is what we’re seeing a lot of and in all honesty, I want something fresh and something new. Something that really does thrill me and mess with my mind. And I was hoping The Widow would do that.
Whilst The Widow relies on the cliche of a child going missing, a mother who we don’t quite like and an absent father, it has something a lot of other psychological thrillers don’t. It has an interesting angle.
Thrilling? Maybe not. Frightening? Not quite. Gripping? Hell yes.
This book does what it needs to – it grips you. And that’s because the focus of the narrative is on the wife of an accused man. How often does that happen? Normally we hear from the victim or the accused but with this novel we get to see the other side – the woman who married the man who is accused of a heinous crime. We follow her after the death of her husband and watch as she tells her side of the story to keen reporter Kate and police officer Sparkes. With her husband gone, the widow has the chance to talk…and talk she does.
What struck me most about this book is that I didn’t like a single character – they were all flawed, they all had elements that drove me mad yet I still cared about what happened to them; I wanted to see what they would do and where they would end up. I loathed the reporter, Kate, with passion! She was a snake and so desperate to feed on another persons distress but I guess that’s what journalists are paid for and it gave an interesting insight into the role of the media in cases like this. I believe Fiona herself was actually a journalist before she turned author so she definitely knows what she’s writing about!
The widow, Jean, was a very intriguing character. She was a hard nut to crack – sometimes I felt like she was weak and pathetic, other times I felt a brief whiff of sympathy for her and other times I thought she was a badass. But it was strange how she never really had a ‘set’ personality. She changed constantly throughout so at times it felt hard to see her as the same woman the whole way through. It was almost like she had faces. The ‘grieving widow’, the ‘scorned wife’, the ‘loving wife’, the ‘untrusting wife’..she ebbed and flowed between a set of faces and I suppose she was the most mischievous character of all – able to play each member of her story just how she wanted. When her husband, Glen, was alive we see he was rather controlling but Jean isn’t stupid, she can tell he was controlling, she has an awareness of that. So should we really feel sorry for her at all? I don’t know.
This book has left me with a lot to think about! The ending was one I couldn’t have predicted – the whole narrative centres around the ‘did he/didn’t’ he do it scenario and until the end I really didn’t know what I believed. And I still don’t know how I feel about it. Was it a good ending? Was it alluded too enough? Did it make sense within the plot? Yes and no.
But despite that, and despite the fact I didn’t love the characters that much and despite the fact it wasn’t the traditional kind of thriller, I just couldn’t put it down. And that speaks volumes. It wasn’t the kind of book that had me on the edge of my seat but it was the kind of book that had me wanting to keep reading.
I am sure this is going to be a bestseller next year – the publicity campaign will make sure of that. And so will the gripping tagline! I’m excited to see what Fiona writes next.