The Widow

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The Widow, published by Fiona Barton in 2016, is a successful psychological thriller presented in a novel way.  The plot concerns the abduction of a toddler and the various characters involved in the crime, including the child’s mother, the detective obsessed with solving the crime, the reporter who covers the story, and the main suspect and his wife (the eponymous widow).  Alternate chapters continue the story from the points of view of each of the characters except the suspect, whose thoughts are only presented as reported by his wife.  This may be due to the basic problem of writing from the point of view of a psychopath – unless you are one, how can you know what they think?

Another difficulty is understanding the thinking of someone married to a psychopath, and what brought these two people together in the first place.  Barton doesn’t explain this explicitly, but she provides enough background, told from the wife’s point of view, to give us an idea how it happened.  Her husband chose her when she was very young.  He was older, a clever man with a good job, and able to make a big impression on a rather timid and sheltered girl and her parents.  The assumption is that her obedient and admiring attitude is what attracted him.

An interesting aspect of the plot is the premise that both the suspect and his wife change over the years.  His psychological aberrations hadn’t yet manifested themselves at the time of his marriage, but gradually became more and more pronounced.  And of course, impressionable young girls, no matter how insecure and self-effacing, grow up.