When reviewers compare a thriller to Gone Girl, my hackles rise. I then know to expect a psychological thriller with a central character who’s a woman, an “unreliable narrator,” and at least a little crazy. Well, some of the reception to Fiona Barton’s The Widow was of that ilk. And I’m here to report that the book justifies that comparison. But if that were all that could be said about it, The Widow would be a big disappointment. It’s better than that.
The Widow by Fiona Barton (2016) 313 pages
@@@@ (4 out of 5)
Barton tells her story in brief chapters that alternate the point of view among the principal characters: The Widow, The Detective, The Reporter, The Husband, and The Mother. It’s a simple tale. They’ve all got names, of course — don’t expect something experimental here — but we only gradually learn who they really are as the action unfolds.
A psychological thriller about a child abduction
What’s happening here is a story about a child abduction. Back in 2006, a two-year-old girl went missing from her home near London. The Detective is absolutely convinced that The Widow’s then-Husband is a pedophile and the man responsible. It’s now four years later, and The Husband is dead. Working with The Detective, The Reporter attempts to learn the truth from The Widow so they can bring closure to The Mother (and satisfy their own morbid curiosity). That’s about it. But Fiona Barton does a top-notch job getting to the truth. This psychological thriller may be simply done, but it works.
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