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In 2014, it was


In 2015, it was


In 2016, it is


Well . . . ah,

hold onto your horses, girls . . .1)



This is a good, solid read; it is shamed by all this puffery. Yeah, it's a little wobbly with its 1st-person to 3rd-person handoffs, but it is an accustomed formula, handled deftly. For my taste, it is too celebratory of Enquirer-style fascinationsmurder trials, paparazzi infractions, wheeler deals and manipulative encouragementsbut as a member of the police and psychological procedurals, it is adroitly presented.

It is backdrop, surely, but the malfeasance investigated in this novel as exemplified by its media revelry is all too indicative of how the public is flogged to stereotypical detachment of horrible events in our communities. At the first of this month, an 11-year old Navaho girl was raped and murdered on her reservation here in Arizona.2) Her death was felt throughout the community and approximately 3,000 people showed for her funeral. Most media coverage was naturally respectful, and used in a positive way to improve awareness demanded by Navaho leaders instead of "bleed 'n' leed" exploitation.3) This is an example of a pro-survival attitude from a culture that invests in itself and believes in its communal strength, no matter what the tragedy.

Last month, some other child in Indiana was raped and murdered4). It was even a more heinous crime, if that is possible. But notice the difference in presentation, in attendance. What are the insinuations of comparing these two similar events?

In The Widow when Dawn Elliott's little two-year old girl Bella goes missing, the incident drums an overly-histrionic reaction. The affair marches on so it bangs away, unbearably. The novel handles its news agencies as if they were a scourge: unrestrainable, churlish, and more interested in selling than sympathy. It's all about decoration not depth, but it seems an ingrained, stereotypical assumption, too exhausted these days for consideration. A man named Glen Taylor gets pointed at for kidnapping Bella, but the case is circumstantial with evidence gained through entrapping him in a pedophile internet chat room. Almost everyone considers Glen an arrogant "little prick"(p.217) but Jean, his wife, while doubtful, runs the only 1st-person racetrack in the novel, so her opinions are somewhat blemished. She is the "widow" of the title, and a backstaged study in denial and gullibility, with an infant/child mesmerization all her own.

The police side is aping the press side, in that the wheels of bureaucracy seem mired in its own self-continuance, restrictive protocols, and blame-passing excuses. The lead detective is Bob Sparkes and he's a pinball trying to manage the bumpers and determined to make high score.

Glen is a pedophileno doubtbut the deeper proposition is the effects of pornography within modern society. What happens when the urge of a basic instinctprocreationbecomes marketable as recreational sex and therefore fetishized? If you believe violent video games and mainstream, body-count movies create aggressive, anti-social behavior, then porn films with titles such as Do Me Like Daddy can be suspected to engender real-life child molesters.

This theme of substitution can be seen everywhere in the novel. In most cases, it is a swapping of values for personal gain or fancies, like news channels caring more about ratings or police closing cases based on bias. Everyone is pretty much objectifying everything in The Widow. Glen, of course, is the poster boy for this; his blame rant that someone else sabotaged his computer with perversion is laughable.

Bella means beautiful, lovely, graceful. Since she's a very young child, "innocence" can surely be included in her description. In a world of artifice and false sincerity, what Bella represents is in high demand. No wonder everybody is searching for her and hoping she's not gone away. Glen's mousy and deferring wife Jean crosses the boundaries with her compulsion to be Bella's "forever mummy"(p.311). Sheriff Bob Sparks, as protector of his community, is mercilessly driven to find Bella and restore tranquility, however impossible that appears to be. It is a world expressed in an advertising slogan: "is it real or is it Memorex?"

Gone Girl traffics in a cutthroat culture, green-lighted by selfish ambition. GG is perky and pesky whereas The Widow is more muted, more mature; it is the search for hope in a society that is overwhelmed in beguilements. It is also an honest novel with characterization anatomized deeper than mere convention. There are no car chases, no blood spilled, no torture-for-truth scenes, as with most Thrillers. This is Ross Macdonald rather than John D. The investigation ends appropriately with an inanimate object.


1) I'd say it's over-reaching hype and false-hope marketing will draw the wrong crowd. It makes you think and question too much for the Best Seller list.

3) This is the coverage for ghouls.


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