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Having never read a Lynda La Plante book before, I had little or no expectations when I settled down with a paperback copy of 'Widows' recently. I had picked the book up on a recent visit to a local hospital ward which I (unfortunately) need to attend regularly. The ward holds a sort of 'book swap' facility in that you can take a book from the stacked shelves in the waiting room in return for a small donation towards ward funds. Alternatively, you can replace your chosen book with one of your own which is what I always do as I am a keen recycler and like to get my 'money's worth' out of my books.
Anyway, my copy of "Widows" didn't look to be too captivating, going by the cover, which has a very dated-looking image on the front. But, as the famous saying goes, it shouldn't be judged thus. The blurb on the back cover did fare a little better in terms of my interest being piqued, as I quite like books that have a strong female lead character, as well as having an interest in books about gangsters and the underworld.
* SYNOPSIS OF THE BOOK *
A dangerous gangster, Harry Rawlins, has been the 'Boss' of a well-known group of underground criminals for almost twenty years when a planned heist goes disastrously and fatally wrong. Not only is Harry killed in the incident, but his right-hand men and partners in crime are killed alongside him.
Harry's widow, Dolly, is struggling to come to terms with her husband's death and is still mourning her loss when the police turn up at her house armed with a search warrant. After a two-day search which proves to be fruitless, and a further search by a local criminal 'dogsbody', it comes to Dolly's attention that Harry left behind some important ledgers containing a lot of vital information relating to his underworld dealings. These ledgers seem to be extremely sought-after by different parties....
"Dolly has three options. She can give up and hand over Harry's ledgers to the police. She can hand them to a bunch of thugs. Or she - and the other widows - can take the business over... and survive..."
* MY OPINION *
I thought that the first part of this book dragged a little. I certainly didn't feel as if it was one of those stories that captivates you from the first page or chapter. That said, the first ten or so chapters are mostly quite short in their length so there is a bit of too-ing and fro-ing in the storyline which held my interest. The other side of this coin however is that I found some of the 'groundwork' that had been laid down by the author in the initial part of the story was a bit forgotten about later on, which meant I had to leaf back through some of the earlier chapters to get my bearings a little. It wasn't overly complicated, but there was a bit of a 'crammed' type of feeling in the first part of the book for me.
As the story progressed, I found that most of the main characters - the widows themselves - were rather strangely unlikeable in their individual personalities. I certainly didn't find that I 'warmed' to them at all, nor did I find much empathy with their respective situations. This may be a deliberate tactic of course, perhaps the reader is not supposed to 'warm' to the widows, but considering some of the hardships and unfortunate circumstances that some of the characters had, I must confess to finding it slightly strange how such a small amount of feeling was eventually (and rather grudgingly) invoked in me.
On the plus side however, I found that the book was very easy to read, and I found myself quite absorbed in it on several occasions. I had no trouble with my mind wandering from the storyline, apart from the first part of the book which I have already mentioned. Other than that however, I found the story was one that kept my interest well enough for the middle and end sections of the book.
Some of the comments and praise for the author are printed on the back of the book's cover. I was slightly surprised to read one comment which refers to Lynda La Plante's being brilliant at writing a 'thriller'. Truth be told it hadn't even occurred to me that this book was meant to be a thriller until I noticed this comment on the cover (at which point I was about half way through the book). I was looking forward to a climatic ending to the storyline and well, I'm still waiting I'm afraid.
It is true to say that the story 'builds' slightly, and on more than one occasion. It is also true to say that there is a bit of a 'twist' in the story towards the end, which is rather what I had expected. I don't mean that I had managed to figure out the twist by myself or found it all to be a bit predictable, only that I had got the impression (and had hoped!) that there would be a twist present in the second half of the book. I got my twist-in-the-tale as hoped, but I have to confess that I didn't feel any sense of 'thrill' in the storyline or as to the outcome of the characters. Perhaps the fact that I am slightly more used to other genres of fiction than crime books and thrillers is something to do with the slight disappointment I felt at the end of the book (and no, I wasn't disappointed because I had finished reading it!), but even so I feel that the storyline, and indeed the characters themselves, were definitely lacking in any real sort of 'bite'.
Overall, I thought the book was ok. To elaborate on this, I enjoyed reading it for the most part but found that it took a while for me to really get into the way of the story as it were. I also really didn't like any of the main characters and thought that the overall story lacked a bit of oomph to it. I would recommend it to others, but there's probably about a million other books that I'd recommend higher than this one first!
It gets 3/5 from me. You can purchase "Widows" by Lynda La Plante on www.amazon.co.uk for around £5.
** ISBN 978-0-7515-4085-7 **