Review of Black Widow by Chris Brookmyre

Black Widow Book Cover Black Widow
Chris Brookmyre
Hachette UK
January 28, 2016

There is no perfect marriage. There is no perfect murder. Diana Jager is clever, strong and successful, a skilled surgeon and fierce campaigner via her blog about sexism. 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's 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 fairytale romance. But Peter's sister Lucy doesn't believe in fairytales, and tasks maverick reporter Jack Parlabane with discovering the dark truth behind the woman the media is calling Black Widow...

I confess I am a fan of Chris Brookmyre‘s and have been for some years. I’d had a spell of not reading his books for a while but read and enjoyed his previous book about Jack Parlabane last year (Dead Girl Walking). There is an edge to this author’s writing which I do enjoy and this book’s second chapter has Jack sat in a court room and the fact that “this bitch murdered her husband”. Yes – that had me hooked! You do know with this sort of book that what seems obvious may well not turn out to be the case and I confess I went back to that second chapter a few times just to be sure I’d not missed anything – surely she was guilty…

While I didn’t feel this was a typical Parlabane for maybe the first half I did find it darkly humourous which Brookmyre does very well. The person on trial is a surgeon and has previously blogged anonymously about the medical profession and her colleagues. At a previous hospital she annoyed IT people and became exposed as Bladebitch – her nom de plume having been Scalpelgirl. The viewpoint of the chapters in this vary from time to time. At times it is Parlabane’s view as he investigates, at times from the view of the police who were involved at the start of the investigation. The remainder of the book, written in the first person, comes from Dr Diana Jager (the accused) and moves from her past up to the time of the trial bit by bit. For me Diana as a character felt fairly authentic as a driven surgeon.

Jack is investigating what is initially not regarded by the authorities as a murder. However, given the start, it is one of those books that you know part of the outcome from the beginning. I did find parts of the book a little slow maybe but I was drawn in early on and would not have dreamed of putting it down. I found the change of viewpoints in the chapters worked well for me and it was intriguing to get the story of the accused’s relationship and marriage from different perspectives. Certainly the “evidence” starts to stack up.

You know you are being told a “story” in this book as the tension builds and it was hard to put down in the second half. The question was how good would the ending be. It certainly worked for me even if I had some inclination of aspects of it. This is a well worked thriller with twist and turns enough in. Fans of Christopher Brookmyre should enjoy it and, while I’d suggest first time readers start with earlier books, this is a good stand alone read.

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review