Book Review: The Wife and the Widow

Set against the backdrop of an eerie island town in the dead of winter, The Wife and The Widow is an unsettling thriller told from two perspectives: Kate, a widow whose grief is compounded by what she learns about her dead husband’s secret life; and Abby, an island local whose world is turned upside when she’s forced to confront the evidence of her husband’s guilt. But nothing on this island is quite as it seems, and only when these women come together can they discover the whole story about the men in their lives. Brilliant and beguiling, The Wife and The Widow takes you to a cliff edge and asks the question: how well do we really know the people we love?

What would you sacrifice to protect someone you love?

The plot of “The Wife and the Widow” is reminiscent of Alex Michaelides’ The Silent Patient, the latter being one of the most awarded and talked-about thrillers of 2019. Novels of this caliber are truly deserving of praise greatly attributed to the authors’ intelligent manipulation of multiple timelines and dual perspectives. The sheer likability of this novel is not the story itself but the way White circumvented the multiple timelines, setting the pace for the big reveal. The result is a brilliant and staggering thriller piece that will leave you breathless afterward.  

The story revolves around the novel’s two female characters, Abby Gilpin and Kate Keddie-the wife and the widow, respectively.  Kate and her daughter, Mia, were supposed to surprise Kate’s husband, John, at the airport from his two-week conference in London for a palliative care research colloquium; but he didn’t arrive as scheduled. Kate soon learns that her husband lied about the conference and so many other things: dark secrets connecting her husband to a tragedy that took place in Belport Island.  What Kate discovers as she sets foot in their holiday home in Belport, starts to unsettle her usual passive demeanor, prompts her to reflect on how well she knew her husband urging her to seek for answers to questions that would reveal so many hidden truths. As Kate learns more about her husband’s past, she knew she will stop at nothing until she finds out what truly happened, even to risk her life for it.

Abby Gilpin’s seemingly normal life changed drastically when her husband confessed to a crime that was the biggest thing to happen in Belport Island in a long time.  Abby soon learns to face the truth about what her husband did and what she decides after that is tethered to the most basic of all maternal instincts: a mother’s protective nature.

Both wives were lied to.  Both husbands were not who they appear to be.  The hunt is on but are they prepared to handle the truth?

This is a clever and brilliantly written book, far better than what I expected.  In terms of plot, “The Wife and the Widow” sits on a high ground due to the complexity of its narrative structure. But the book’s value lies within White’s depiction of the roles mother play in defending and protecting their children even in the most afflicting of circumstances.  The moral problems explored in the book left me with an emotional discomfort that makes me question how far would I go to protect my children. Would the fear of moral ramifications even deter me from making unethical decisions to defend my family? White wishes to implore his readers to think about the implications of every action portrayed in his book.  I just couldn’t help but gush how thought-provoking this novel is. I don’t think I have ever devoured a book as unputdownable as this in a long time and my final verdict is that every reader must learn from stories like this because it may not be far from reality.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Christian White

Genre: Mystery Thriller / Crime Fiction

Length: 352 pages

Publisher: January 21st 2020 by Minotaur Books

ISBN-10: 1250194377

ISBN-13: 9781250194374

Book Review: The Whisper Man

Life is brimming with bad people and equally bad situations and it is a parent’s job to protect his child from the unknown danger that lurks even in the safest of places.  This is the premise of “The Whisper Man” by Alex North, a story about a father and his son picking up the pieces and starting life anew from a tragic loss that came to pass their lives.  Tom Kennedy, emotionally burdened by the loss of his wife had been struggling with the difficulty of raising his seven-year-old son, Jake. Scarred by childhood memories, Tom does his best to be a doting father to his son, urging himself on until he could break the unseen barrier in their relationship.  Jake keeps mostly to himself, socially withdrawn from the world but emotionally intelligent for his age. Despite Tom’s efforts, he finds it hard to fill in the hole that Jake had reserved only for his mother. His son’s creation of an imaginary friend–his dependence and need for it– frustrates Tom’s desire for normalcy. With the prospect of moving into a  new home in Featherbank, Tom seeks to repair their lives. Prepared to turn a new leaf, Tom and Jake were ushered into the maddening truth of what transpired twenty years ago — the abduction and murder of five children and the arrest of a known serial killer, Frank Carter, referred to as “The Whisper Man”. As Tom bridges his relationship with his son, he finds himself reconnecting to a past he had wanted so much to forget. It all began when a shred of evidence connected to the Whisper Man was found in the strange house they now call home.


After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window…


POINT OF VIEW, WRITING STYLE & ATMOSPHERE

North’s writing made use of alternate Point of View (POV), shifting from a first POV for Tom’s character to a third person POV for Jake, Pete Willis, Francis Carter, and Amanda Beck.  The multiple narratives were written seamlessly providing the readers with much exhilarating anticipation for what’s to come next.  

The imagery depicted in North’s writing is palpable.  His writing style made use of a combination of simple and elaborate words, using short sentences and fragments.  His narrative is filled with visual imagery despite being an easy-read novel.  

North’s descriptive language, fused with Gothic elements such as the strange house, dark hallways,  supernatural element (Jake’s imaginary friend), nightmares, whispers in the night, and death, set the novel’s dark and creepy atmosphere. 

THEMES
  • Father and son relationship
  • Reverberations of Trauma
  • Forgiveness
TRIGGER WARNINGS

I have tons of sentiments about this book that I couldn’t quite place eloquently.  This novel created a huge buzz for some time, scoring a film adaptation deal optioned by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, and has made it to the final cut of Goodreads Best Mystery and Thriller category for 2019.  So far things have been going well for Alex North’s “The Whisper Man”, but the thing about most hyped novels is that once the expectations have been set on high, it conditions the readers to expect so much more. On the contrary, this novel didn’t just live up to my expectations; this one touched my heart and soul. It broke pieces of me here and there, feeling the exact same solace running through the vein of every character. There is so much more to this novel than the usual whodunit plot. North’s take on a mystery crime novel was not singled in on its plot as most books in the same genre have traversed.  This novel is much a character-driven plot as it is simply plot-driven.  

But the most remarkable aspect of this novel was how the author delved not just into the relationship between Tom and Jake but of Pete and Tom’s, and Frank and Francis’ relationship. The readers are presented with three differing kinship sculptured by character, social interventions, and tragedies.  North has reminded us of the repercussions of domestic violence, divorce, and in this case, the disturbing relationship between a serial killer and his son; the latter individualized by childhood trauma could very well have inherited his father’s psychotic traits. But North points out how individual choices can change the course of a person’s path.  Tom’s memories of his father’s drunkenness and indifference prompted him to aspire to a better version of himself. Francis Carter’s darker past attuned him to reverse the implications of what his father had done. He had morphed into becoming virtuous by kidnapping neglected children, to guide and nurture. But due to his apparent inheritance of his father’s deranged traits, Francis’ agitated temper and disagreement to lack of obedience, made him do things his father had done all those years ago.  The difference between Tom’s character and Francis’ sits on their individual choices. Even though both were altered by their dismal past, Tom did his best to be a father to his son, while Francis remained haunted by the horrors of his father’s perversion no matter how hard he tried to escape from it.

END OF SPOILER !!!

“The Whisper Man” did not delve much on the aspect of gore and police procedures as expected of a noir novel.  Despite its predictability, this book is a page-turner, a true class of its own. North gave us a moving narrative of a father’s love for his son despite his imperfections and limitations.  The heart of this novel is not the conclusion to the murders that happened in Featherbank, but how North came up with such compelling characters that are truly mesmerizing and unforgettable.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Alex North

Genre: Mystery & Thriller

Length: 368 pages

Publisher: Celadon Books (August 20, 2019)

ISBN-10: 1250317991

ISBN-13: 978-1250317995