Black Widow, Christopher Brookmyre

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

BLACK WIDOW is the 7th Jack Parlabane story, which I did read before WANT YOU GONE, but the review is going up out of order, just because (well actually I was working my way through a list from the bottom up so that's worked well....)

Anyway, this book is the story of surgeon Diana Jager and husband Peter Elphinstone, her outing as the writer of a deeply unpopular blog about life in a sexist, bullying workplace, and his supposed death, six months after they married, when his car left a road and plunged into a river.

She's disgraced, widowed, and there are a lot of rumours flying about Elphinstone's death (to say nothing of what she starts to find out about his life). Meanwhile Jack Parlabane is disgraced, divorced and involved in this story, when Elphinstone's sister gets in touch believing there is a lot more to the accident than meets the eye (Peter's body never having been found just one of the questions).

You get to know a lot of the backstory to this whole thing from Jager's point of view, as she works back in her own head over her meeting, at the hospital, with the IT guy who became her husband. There's Elphinstone's alleged business, coding a potentially lucrative software application, and his secrecy about that, there's Jager's own reputation as the writer of a searing blog, and her career complications as a result of that, and there's Parlabane own personal problems with the failure of his marriage, and his career all at the same time. Lots of personal stuff in other words, all of which goes to inform the plot, rather than distract from it.

In a nice twist as well there is a police partnership here that's not a couple of dumb, disinterested cops, but two people who are engaged, and actually actively chasing up what's part gut instinct, part things that simply don't add up, whilst also trying to sort out the whys and wherefores of a new working dynamic.

Listening to the audio version of this, I'd sort of half expected that the multiple viewpoints might be a bit of a problem to keep track of, but the whole thing chopped and changed, moved around, and worked backwards and forwards through the plot elements really well. It kind of felt like a good investigative thriller "show" being played out in front of the listener. All in all, a bit of a high point in a very highly rated series.


Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

There is no perfect marriage. There is no perfect murder.

Diana Jager's life crumbles when her details are released on the Internet as revenge for her antisexism blog. Then she meets Peter. 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 maverick reporter Jack Parlabane with discovering the dark truth behind the woman the media is calling 'Black Widow'.

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