The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford was an excellent, suspenseful debut novel (“A gripping, character-driven mystery.” Booklist) So I had high hopes and expectations for The Other Widow. I was disappointed.
Widow starts off with a bang. Joe Lindsay, a married small business owner who is having an affair with one of his workers, has a fatal car accident while driving in heavy snow. His mistress is his passenger. For some reason the brakes on Joe’s Volvo fail to work and his airbag does not deploy.
The mistress escapes from the accident scene and resolves to find out what happened. As does insurance investigator Maggie Brennan, a former police officer and war veteran who notices that the dead man had recently been extremely well insured by his spouse. (The Irish-American character of Maggie Brennan is listed as Maggie Devlin on the book jacket.)
While Pocket Wife was stocked with a few well drawn out characters, one of the key problems with Widow is there are too many characters, virtually all female. It’s difficult to identify with any of these characters – other than Brennan/Devlin – because so little time is spent with each of them; Crawford has dissipated her creative energy with quantity rather than quality.
While Pocket Wife was genuinely clever in the mode of Scott Turow, Widow is loaded up with dead ends and red herrings. And even a ghost of sorts – the dead mother of a character speaks to her whenever she’s in imminent danger. In my mind, I pictured Crawford with flow sheets helping her keep track of the characters and false leads.
Widow concludes in a somewhat logical fashion, but it’s just one of many possible endings tying up far too many loose ends. The reader may spend some time, as I did, wondering if Crawford selected the right villain among numerous characters most of whom had bad intentions and evil motives.
On the positive side, Widow is a quick read since the suspension of disbelief never quite kicks in. Not much is invested or lost on the reader’s part. The book also introduces the promising character of Maggie Brennan. At the end of this crime tale, she’s welcomed back to the police department with open arms after having figured out who – singular or plural, killed Joe Lindsay. Maggie is tough and smart and has great instincts.
Let’s hope that Crawford’s next book is subtitled A Detective Maggie Brennan Mystery. Let’s also hope Crawford listens to the ghostly voice telling her to keep it simple.