Name: The Widow
By Fiona Barton
Publisher: Bantam Press
Price: Rs 599
In the publicity that has preceded the release of the book, The Widow has been tagged as the new The Girl on the Train, last year’s runaway hit by Paula Hawkins. It’s an annoying commendation for a book, pointing as it does in the direction of the conveyor belt nature of publishing. Billing The Widow as this year’s The Girl on the Train, however, is doing it a huge disfavour. Written by British-born debutant author Fiona Barton, this is a surer story, which rises above its genre.
Unlike its sorority, The Widow is not riddled with twists and turns. It would be no spoiler to say a toddler goes missing and the suspect is known from the very beginning. There is no major revelation, and little suspense. But, where she succeeds, is in building up apprehension in the mind of the reader. A sense of worry hangs over the 300-odd pages, and that comes from some of the stillness between all the action, the frequent forays into the minds of the characters — the wife of the suspect, the detective leading the enquiry and the journalist covering the case. Much of the story is a realistic police procedural that also effectively portrays the media’s blatant incursions into the lives of people. This is the part that Barton most excels in, which is no surprise, given her background as a seasoned journalist. The book is bound to be a bestseller, and television rights have already been sold. The good thing is, it’s not underserved.