“The widow pedestal is a high one to fall from…”
The ‘Black Widow‘ of the title is a brilliant and fiercely competitive surgeon named Diana Jager, a.k.a. ‘Bladebitch‘. She is a single-minded workaholic. Forty years old, she has no life other than that which involves her work. Her superior attitude, coupled with the ‘sexism in the hospital workplace’ allegations on her blog, make her unpopular to say the least. Then, when she ruffled the feathers of someone with tech know-how, her blog was hacked which resulted in names being revealed. As a result, her reputation was damaged and she lost her consultancy position at an esteemed teaching hospital which caused her to relocate to the Inverness Royal Infirmary.
In Inverness, when her office computer locks her out of much needed access, she calls the hospital’s IT department. The IT guy who answers her call is Peter Elphinstone . There seems to be an instant attraction. Diana feels that he understands her – they begin dating, and months later they are wed. Diana believes she has finally found what has always eluded her – a work/life balance. Also, she might finally have a child, which she has recently longed for. They seem a mismatched pair. She a skilled surgeon and he a PC gamer and coding geek. Peter says that Diana makes him a better person, more driven. He packs in his IT job and works at coding a potentially lucrative software.
This marriage ends after only six months when Peter’s BMW is found submerged in a river after skidding off the road. Peter’s body is never found.
The series protagonist, Jack Parlabane, is an investigative journalist. His inventive professional methods have led to his disgrace in the profession at which he excels. His marriage has recently failed. Jack’s part in the story begins when he is approached by Lucy, the sister of Peter Elphinstone. She feels that there is more to Peter’s accident than meets the eye. She wants Jack to investigate.
The police partnership was an interesting one. PC Ali Kazmi and PC Rodriguez are only just getting to know each other. They are in agreement over the fact that they are both suspicious of Diana Jager. General impressions and gut instinct are not enough to prove their suspicions however, so they must delve further…
Meanwhile, the reader is treated to Diana’s point of view. In timeline flashbacks, she is suspicious of her new husband. He is overly secretive about his new software business venture. He spends countless hours alone with his computer, or away overnight. She finds that her trust in her new husband was unfounded. Lies, deceptions, subterfuge, and betrayals are rampant in their fledgling relationship.
“Black Widow” is the 7th novel in Chris Brookmyre’s Jack Parlabane series. I haven’t read any of the previous six titles, but I can heartily assure you that this novel reads very satisfactorily as a stand-alone. I haven’t read such a cleverly plotted thriller since reading
“The devotion of Suspect X” by Keigo Higashino.
I’m guessing the reading experience of this novel might have been richer if I had read the previous titles in the series – yet to be honest I fail to see how. I loved this book. It was a well rendered compilation of domestic thriller, suspense novel, and police procedural. The characterization was rich, the plot deviously clever. If I had to state a negative, it was that the non-linear timeline and frequent changes of narrators was somewhat confusing at times causing me to backtrack a paragraph to discern who was narrating at the time. This negative seems to diminish in importance when you realize the full scope of the narrative with its brilliant plot twists and excellent characterization. Highly recommended.
I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Grove/Atlantic Monthly Press via Edelweiss. This in no way influenced my rating or review of this book.
Christopher Brookmyre was a journalist before publishing his award-winning debut, Quite Ugly One Morning. He is the author of the Jack Parlabane thriller series, which has sold over 1 million copies in the UK alone, and the acclaimed Jasmine Sharp and Catherine McLeod novels. He has won many wards for his work, including the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, the McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Novel of the Year, the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, and the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Award.