Black Widow

Description:  There is no perfect marriage.  There is no perfect murder.  

From Scottish crime master Christopher Brookmyre, Black Widow tells the potent story of a woman who thought she was too late for love, the man who falls for her ambition, and the secret selves that are poised, at any moment, to end everything.

Diana Jager is clever, strong, and successful, a skilled surgeon and fierce campaigner via her blog about sexism in medicine. Yet it takes only hours for her life to crumble when her personal details are released on the internet as revenge for her writing. Then she meets Peter. He is kind, generous, and knows nothing about her past—the second chance she’s been waiting for. Within six months, they are married. Within six more, Peter is dead in a road accident, a nightmare end to their fairy-tale romance. But Peter’s sister Lucy doesn’t believe in fairy tales, and tasks rogue reporter Jack Parlabane with discovering the dark truth behind the woman the media is calling the Black Widow.

Still on the mend from his own relationship wounds after a turbulent divorce, Jack’s investigation into matters of the heart takes him to hidden places no one should ever have to go.

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I loved this one. Although it is #7 in the Jack Parlabane series it is the first one I have read – in fact it’s the first Chris Brookmyre book I have ever read, despite several people telling me his books are very, very good and I should read them. The story starts and ends in a court room. In between is a great plot, full of twists and turns, that keeps you gripped right to the end.

It starts with the court listening to a recording of a telephone call reporting a possible accident. “I think I’ve just seen an accident….” says a faceless voice.

Dr Diana Jager stands accused of her husband’s murder – her husband of only a few months. She is a brilliant, career driven, surgeon but apparently not a well liked person.

The story that unfolds is told in various voices: the accused herself, witnesses in the court room, two local police officers who had attended the scene of the road accident and Jack Parlabane, an out of favour investigative journalist, hired by the victim’s sister, all providing background to what happened prior to the case coming to Court.

Some time earlier Dr Jager had been the anonymous author of a blog on the subject of Sexism in Surgery which caused a fair amount of controversy and lively comment. However after writing about hospital IT techs in a very unflattering way, and getting on the wrong side of them, her real name and place of work was leaked and worse, from that, some of the colleagues she had been writing about were also identified and their lives picked apart online. She was forced to resign from a prestigious post and take up employment in a smaller hospital in Inverness.

With this background in mind, it was very surprising that she encountered Peter Elphinstone, an IT tech at work, found they had lots in common, immediately fell in love, and within a very short time the embittered and career driven surgeon was married.

It soon becomes apparent that the honeymoon period is at an end, or perhaps never even got started.

There is an accident, a car is found in the river and is identified as belonging to Peter Elphinstone the husband of Dr Diana Jager. There was no body in the car but there are signs that the driver managed to get out but presumably got caught up in the strong current.

Peter’s sister, Lucy, asks Jack Parlabane for help shortly after the car is found. She is distressed and is looking for closure. He is having his own problems but decides to investigate.

The author cleverly feeds us little bits of information throughout, creating doubt. Is Diana Jager a psychopath? Is Peter hiding something? Who is the real victim? The two police officers who attended the scene feel something isn’t quite right but can’t quite get their superiors to listen. Lucy, the sister, has doubts about her brother’s marriage and thought he was unhappy and in trouble. Parlabane is sufficiently interested to take on the investigation.

The twists and turns in the story lead to family secrets, lies, hidden pasts, shady dealings with gangsters, online services, etc

I was kept guessing right to the end and it was one of these books that keep you reading into the ‘wee small hours’.

Great characters and a complex but never confusing plot. I loved it.

[Thanks to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for providing me with a digital copy of this book]

Black Widow is available now in the UK.

Authors website:  www.brookmyre.co.uk

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Filed under crime thriller, psychological thriller, thriller

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