The Widow

The Widow by Fiona Barton (Bantam Press, £12.99)

When it came to love, Jean Taylor was lucky. She was married young, to her first boyfriend Glen, her Prince Charming. A man who loved and cherished her and treated her like a queen. Life was good until the day Glen was accused of abducting a little girl called Bella, of taking her to be the child they could never have. Nothing was ever proved, but that didn't stop the papers. 'MONSTER!', they screamed and Glen helped Jean ignore it and get on with her life.

The years ticked by and life took on a pattern. Of course, there weren't any friends but that didn't matter because Glen was really all Jean needed.

But when Glen dies in a traffic accident, Jean's on her own for the first time in her life. There's no one now to help her keep the circling reporters at bay. One, Kate, breaks through the barriers and gets the scoop the nation's been waiting for: Jean's story.

Now we are going to find out what really happened to Bella. Or are we? How much does Jean even know?

This a tensely plotted and structured novel. It's never even entirely clear whether Glen took Bella or whether it was one of his seedy colleagues. And what is the story Jean has to tell? Maybe she just fancies a chance to get her side of the story across after years of standing by her wronged man.

In addition to a tightly structured plot are a host of well drawn characters, the journalists in particular ring realistically, and not always pleasantly, true. And the unfurling of timid Jean is skifully and believably done. You might guess some of the ending, but you won't get it all and I guarantee you won't be able to put the book down until you get there.

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