Book Reviews

Book Review: Black Widow, Chris Brookmyre – or the book that kept me up until 3 a.m

Black Widow

Title: Black Widow
Author: Chris Broomyre
Publisher: Groove Atlantic
Release date: November 1st 2016

Format: eARC
Pages: 407
Rating: 5/5

The Story

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 pastβ€”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.

My thoughts

When I requested Black Widow, I was not aware of the fact the story was the seventh in a series. At the time, I also did not know I would willingly lose sleep to quench my thirst for answers. Now, I know I won’t be happy until I read every single book from Chris Brookmyre.

All Diana Jagger wanted was a happy marriage.
After a lifetime of being a skilled but cold surgeon, and the media-friendly debacle that forced her to relocate, she yearned for something more. When she meets Peter, she thinks he is her last shot at happiness. He reminds her of life outside of work, she lends him her ambition to make his dream come true. A match made in heaven. Unfortunately, the wedded bliss only lasts a year. It all comes to and end when the beloved husband’s car is found under water,Β  turning the happy new wife into a widow. But suspicions rise as Peter’s sister hires seasoned journalist Jack Palarbane to look into her brother’s death.

I knew there would be obstacles and difficulties ahead, but marriage wasn’t about finding someone with whom you would never have problems, it was about finding someone you could better tackle your problems with.

The book opens on a courtroom where a recording of a conversation between a witness and an emergency dispatcher is played. The first narrator is not named and the few pieces ofΒ  information provided do not allow the reader to understand what is going on.

From there, the story flicks between different points of view. A first person narrative takes you on a ride to Diana Jager’s mind as she goes back to the very beginning of her story. As a skilled surgeon, Diana has always put her career first. Her life revolves around the hospital, leaving her with no time for mundane matters such as evenings out or hobbies. But one can forget how to live outside of work for so long, and Diana starts longing for something different. I found her thoughts, related in the way only a doctor would, to be intensely enthralling. I really enjoyed getting to know her through her own eyes. She dissects every part of her life in a cold and analytic manner. She never holds back and does not hide her motivations. I was fascinated by her tale of the successful surgeon yearning for love, a longing that will take her one step too far. As she was getting closer to the day of the courtroom audience, I started to doubts things I had taken for granted and I wondered just how much appearances could be deceiving.

Maybe for some women the lines gradually became blurred until they started to forget the difference between the public ideal of their marriage and the tawdry truth they lived in.

We also get to hear the story from the police’s viewpoint, which I thought was very clever. The usual pattern is to have either the police, the main protagonist on their own, or the journalist being at the center of the story. Rarely do we witness events from all sides. But Brookmyre brilliantly mixes the voice of the police in thanks to the two PC who were first to arrive on the accident scene.
Even though this book is part of the Jack Palarbane series, the journalist only appears late into the story, as he gets brought to the case by Lucy after her brother Peter’s death.

The characterization of all narrators is well-crafted, leaving enough room to each of them to have a story of their own; Palarbane struggling with his divorce, the police team learning how to work together, Diana walking down memory lane, while their combined voices slowly bring together the pieces of the puzzle that lead to the death of a man.
The balance between the narratives don’t allow the tension to let up and the different point of views have you questioning whether or not you have it worked out every time you switch characters. I could not get rid of a little voice telling me something was off, and I certainly did not see the end coming!

The actions I took in pursuit of my desires, to better my lot and to extricate myself from an intolerable situation, these were unforgivable, depraved.

While there are elements of danger and excitement, the main focus of this book is the personal drama of the characters, which makes it different than your usual thriller. The pace is exceptional, leaving you no break, and the author manages to give the second part of the book an acceleration that keep you on the edge of your seat. Chris Brookmyre hits the mark with this riveting story that delivers on everything you look for in a thriller.

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

19 thoughts on “Book Review: Black Widow, Chris Brookmyre – or the book that kept me up until 3 a.m”

  1. Great review! I wanted to read this when it first came out but then I saw a few mixed reviews and wasn’t sure if it was for me. Your review has absolutely sold it to me – I must like similar things to you in books as all that you’ve loved in this book are things that I generally like in novels so I feel sure I would enjoy this book. I’m going to put it on my wish list and hope to get a copy and to be able to read it soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I am glad you decided to give it a go. The writing is brilliant and I found myself unable to do any adulting before I reached the end of the story. The pace and the balance are so perfect that you’re drawn right away. I struggled to review it even more than The Sister. Every time I wrote something, I gave away too much information, so in the end I decided to be quieter about the plot and focus on my favorite part; the characters. I will be looking forward to hearing your thoughts about it! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love that you couldn’t do any adulting while you were reading this book! You can’t beat a book that takes you so far away from real life when you’re reading so I definitely have to read this asap! Your review is great because your love of the book shines though and yet you haven’t given any spoilers – it can be a tough line with some books, can’t it? I’ve had re-write so many reviews of thrillers over and over until I’m sure I’ve not given anything away. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I also almost starved, I did not notice the time and missed lunch. It doesn’t happen a lot so I relish every book that completely take me away. The better ones are the toughest! πŸ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review. I do really like Chris Brookmyre books and I think this was one of my favourites from him. Sometimes he can wander into long monologues about things that don’t interest me (football/soccer, video games, politics for example) but there isn’t much of it in this book. It still doesn’t quite beat The Sacred Art of Stealing which remains my all time favourite of his but definitely a great mystery.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you πŸ™‚
      I did not know The Sacred Art of Stealing, but I checked it and it sounds very good. I might try it before getting the rest of the Palarbane series.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sacred Art of Stealing is second in Angelique Xavier series although don’t need to have read the first. He also has some good stand alones. I also liked A Tale Etched in Hard Black Pencil and All Fun and Games until Somebody Loses an Eye but you usually can’t go wrong πŸ™‚


    1. That’s great news, I’m happy my review helped convincing you about this story. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts about it! I remember choosing this book also because the release date was in Nov, thinking I would have time to for a thorough read and review. It was one of my first requests and I was nervous about how long it would take me to write the review πŸ™‚


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