Wednesday, October 12, 2016

THE WIDOW by Fiona Barton

What’s inside the head of a woman who discovers that her husband Glen has a thing for child pornography and may have kidnapped a little girl?  Jean Taylor is that woman and becomes a widow when her husband is hit by a bus and dies.  This is another novel with a non-sequential timeline, so revelations come in a manner that provides optimal suspense, as we look back on Jean and Glen’s marriage.  Jean has an obsession with children also, and Glen has a miniscule sperm count.  He has refused to consider adoption, artificial insemination, or a surrogate, so why doesn’t Jean just leave him?  For one thing, she comes across as a woman with a self-esteem problem, and then when Glen becomes a suspect, she decides to stand by her man, even giving him a false alibi.  The supporting characters are a cop who can’t solve the crime but also can’t stop thinking about it, and a female reporter who hopes to get Jean to spill the beans, now that Glen is no longer alive to intervene.  Jean’s reliability as a narrator is questionable, sweeping Glen’s porn addition under the rug and referring to it as “his nonsense.”  She’s an enigma of the first order, and, with her fixation on children, we can’t help wondering what her role may have been in the abduction.  Did she do it?  Did she compel Glen to do it?  And it’s not even certain whether she and Glen are even involved in the girl’s disappearance at all.  Jean may be under Glen’s spell, but she’s not fragile.  She becomes even tougher as she has to deal with hovering reporters and TV crews, endless hate mail, and frequent questioning by the police.  Is she as clueless as she appears to be, or sly as a fox?

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