Fiona Barton’s debut novel is not so much a whodunnit as a howdunnit about the abduction of two year old Bella Elliot. Everyone knows that Glen Taylor did it, but how?
Helping us solve this puzzle are the wife Jean (the widow of the title and wife of the villain), the lead detective investigating the case, and a newspaper reporter hoping to get the inside scoop on the case with an exclusive interview with Jean.
They’re all unreliable witnesses to Bella’s abduction: constantly analyzing the facts incorrectly, following false leads, and bringing their own prejudices to bear. Chief among our unreliable witnesses is Jean – just how much did she know? She must have known right? You can’t live so closely to someone who abducts children and not know what he is like, can you?
Barton answers these questions in about as straightforward a way as possible. There’s no exploration of the nuances of a marriage here. No way. Just straight up and down story telling. Every last bit explained nicely.
I suppose it makes for a good page turner, but it left me feeling a little lightweight. It’s an easy read, but not a satisfying one. A popcorn book, if ever there was one.