The Widow, by Fiona Barton, tells the story of a high profile child abduction from the point of view of the wife of the man accused. It explores how much she may have known at the time, and as time moved on; how far she would be willing to go to protect her husband, and why.
The protagonist, Jean Taylor, was still a teenager when she married the handsome Glen. He worked at a bank and offered her a comfortable life so long as she did as he asked. Jean admired his ambition and enjoyed his attention, content at first to submit to his controlling nature.
When a two year old child goes missing from her front garden, Jean, childless after many years of marriage, blames the mother for leaving her toddler unsupervised. As the police and media scrabble for leads they come knocking on the Taylor’s immaculately kept front door. Jean discovers that her husband harbours unsavoury secrets.
The author worked as a journalist for many years and used her experience of real cases to craft this tale. It is a taut, tense read and utterly compelling. The drip feed of facts from the original case, the police investigation and the media response are woven together to tease the reader. Throughout we have Jean’s thoughts as the love she felt for her husband morphs into contempt banked by fear.
As well as considering the crime, and the horror that any parent must feel when they hear of a child going missing, this is a fascinating exploration of a marriage and how much is overlooked for want of an easier life. Jean does not mourn the death of her husband. She feels a freedom after so many years of putting up with his ways. What is not clear, perhaps even to herself, is how she intends to be now that she may choose.
An impressive debut and a very fine thriller which kept me up late at night and then invaded my dreams. My only regret is that I finished it so quickly. I couldn’t stop turning the pages.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Bantam Press.