A Mystery Lacking a Mystery


Title: The Widow

Rating: 2 Stars

This is a serviceable mystery story. It’s told through multiple points of view, through multiple points of time, and at times, with an unreliable narrator. Do you think that somewhere, someplace, some editor looked at the best seller list and saw Girl on the Train and Gone Girl dominating the list and thought to himself (or herself), “I need to get a piece of that?”

Because that’s how I felt reading it.

The basic story is this. There’s a missing girl. There’s a police officer that becomes obsessed with the case and becomes even more obsessed with bringing the suspected pedophile to justice.  There’s a reporter that’s been following the case and is hungering to feed the public’s voyeuristic yearnings regarding the missing girl. And there’s the wife of the suspected pedophile.

The story opens with the pedophile’s accidental death and then proceeds to move forward and backwards through time via multiple points of view to bring the kaleidoscopic plot into crystal clearness at its conclusion.

The story is told well. The different plot threads are managed well. The different points of view provides a more complete picture than does the usual single narrator. The different periods of time come together in a carefully planned finale.

And if the story had been written a couple of years ago, I’d probably be fawning over it and praising it’s innovative use of postmodern literary motifs into what was previously a pretty trail worn genre.

However…Girl on the Train and Gone Girl both have done this before, and better. Specifically, Gone Girl is probably one of the most innovative mysteries that I’ve read in some time. For someone that has read a lot of mysteries, Gone Girl was one of the few in recent memory that consistently left me surprised.

However well crafted this work is, I was very rarely surprised. There was nothing particularly mysterious about the mystery. If you tell the answer at the start of a novel, you better have a pretty compelling path that drives the reader to that answer at the end, and this just wasn’t compelling.

Even the twist that was thrown in towards the end was telegraphed many pages before.

So, even though I appreciate the fact that it was well written, that I was entertained, and I don’t regret reading it, a mystery that is bereft of mystery isn’t really doing its job all that well.



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