The Wife and the Widow, Book Review: White’s killer twist

The Wife and the Widow by Christian White is a tale of psychological suspense in an atmospheric small-town setting, with a killer twist. Read on for my full review.

The Wife and the Widow Book Review - Christian White - Affirm Press AUS

The Wife and the Widow Synopsis

Set against the backdrop of an eerie island town in the dead of winter, The Wife and the Widow is a mystery/thriller told from two perspectives: Kate, a widow whose grief is compounded by what she learns about her dead husband’s secret life; and Abby, an island local whose world is turned upside down when she’s forced to confront the evidence that her husband is a murderer.

But nothing on this island is quite as it seems, and only when these women come together can they discover the whole story about the men in their lives.

Brilliant and beguiling, The Wife and the Widow takes you to a cliff edge and asks the question: how well do we really know the people we love?

(Affirm Press – September 2019 / Minotaur Books – January 2020)

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Drama, Crime

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My The Wife and the Widow Review

Personally, I do not think you can get a much creepier setting than winter on a windswept small island only accessible by boat. But in The Wife and the Widow, White has ratcheted that up a notch by making Belport Island (thankfully fictional) a popular summer holiday destination for Melbourne’s affluent, sowing the seeds for simmering tensions and acrimony with the locals who loathe yet depend on their excess. Oh yeah, and why not throw something else that ‘totally weirds me out’ into that melting pot, taxidermy!

Add in several of my favourite fiction ingredients — original descriptors, alternating narratives and feisty female leads — and you have a recipe for success.

The dual narratives offer readers engaging character growth, the ‘still waters run deep’ variety. And, their exploration of that eternal question, ‘How well do we really know the people we love?’ builds suspense.

She sensed a primal darkness standing over them, following her like a shadow, and when she went downstairs and saw that body, it would clap around her shoulders, drag her down and stay with her forever.

The Wife and the Widow - Christian White - Minotaur Books US

A killer twist

However, it is White’s skilful plotting and pacing that I found most successful. While I’ll try to avoid going into spoiler territory, I will confess to holding certain suspicions from early on. That said, I still had not anticipated the full extent and gravitas of the killer twist at the ending.

To say much more would spoil the surprise. This second standalone thriller from Christian White is indeed worthy of the media buzz garnered at release.

The Wife and the Widow grips and thoroughly entertains before leaving readers with much weightier issues to consider. Namely, the power of grief (as anchor and chameleon) and the corrosive nature of secrets.

Guilt, fear, grief, they’re all like moss, Ab. If you slow down long enough it’ll start to grow, and it won’t stop until you’re covered.

Given the moral and ethical questions this novel raises, it would make a great choice book club discussion.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5; The Writing 4 / 5  — Overall 4.25

Get your copy of The Wife and the Widow from:

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Update: I’ve also since had the pleasure of reading his third thriller, Wild Place also.

Other The Wife and the Widow Reviews

“White is a master of the art of misdirection. Just when you think you have worked things out, he pulls back the curtain to reveal his cunning sleight of hand.”―Sydney Morning Herald

“White exceeds readers’ expectations after his super successful debut with strong, complex protagonists…and notable secondary characters who are well developed. The plot never stops and the clever twist is thrilling.” ―Library Journal(starred review)

“Gripping. White maintains a steady flow even as he nimbly uses history and secondary characters to create multiple potential scenarios. Misdirects and a terrific reveal midway through the novel add to the pleasure of White’s second standalone thriller.”―ShelfAwareness

More The Wife and The Widow Book Resources

  • This novel’s intriguing prologue is available to read at the Affirm Press website.
  • A great set of book club questions are also available for download but be warned they do contain spoilers.
  • The Wife and the Widow has been an international success with more than 10,000 ratings (4+ average) on Goodreads.
  • This title won Christian White the Australian Crime Writers Association (ACWA) Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Fiction 2020.

Source: Affirm Press, 2019

About the Author, Christian White

Christian White is an Australian author and screenwriter whose projects include feature film RelicThe Nowhere Child is his first book and one of Australia’s bestselling debut novels ever. An early draft of this novel won the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. Since publication, The Nowhere Child has been shortlisted for major awards. These include ABIA General Fiction Book of the Year, Matt Richell Award New Writer of the Year, and the Indie Book Awards’ Debut Fiction Book of the Year. Rights to The Nowhere Child have been sold in 17 international territories, plus a major screen deal. Also, Clickbait, a television series Christian co-created with Tony Ayres (The Slap) is currently in production for Netflix. His second book, The Wife and the Widow was published by Affirm Press in 2019. Christian lives in Melbourne with his wife, filmmaker Summer DeRoche, and their adopted greyhound, Issy.

This review counts toward my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2020.