STARRED REVIEW
November 01, 2016

Scottish crime master weaves a twisted psychological tale

By Christopher Brookmyre

Just when you think you’ve got things straight, Christopher Brookmyre throws you another curveball in his newest book, Black Widow. Brookmyre builds layers of intrigue like a chef crafting a multilayer cake, with each layer providing another tantalizing clue or red herring to keep readers guessing. But no matter how diligently readers strive to piece everything together, it’s doubtful anyone will see the final twist before its reveal.

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Just when you think you’ve got things straight, Christopher Brookmyre throws you another curveball in his newest book, Black Widow. Brookmyre builds layers of intrigue like a chef crafting a multilayer cake, with each layer providing another tantalizing clue or red herring to keep readers guessing. But no matter how diligently readers strive to piece everything together, it’s doubtful anyone will see the final twist before its reveal.

The “black widow” in the title is Dr. Diana Jager, a successful surgeon and outspoken critic of sexism in medicine on her blog. Her pulls-no-punches social media diatribes ultimately land her in hot water when a hacker reveals her true identity, bringing her career crashing down on her. Vulnerable for the first time in her life, she finds comfort in a young IT specialist, Peter. After a whirlwind romance, the pair marry and appear to resume a semblance of a normal life. Until Peter is killed in a car crash.

Brookmyre, who is a popular crime novelist in Scotland with 18 previous novels and multiple awards to show for it, brings his longtime investigative reporter Jack Parlabane into the mix when Peter’s sister, Lucy, implores him to find the truth behind Peter’s death. Specifically, she steers him toward Diana as a suspect, and before long the trail of clues and evidence seem to bear her out.

But, as with any Brookmyre novel, not everything is as simple as it appears. While the narrative takes on a decidedly slow build toward its multiple twist ending, Brookmyre keeps things interesting by mixing up his narrators from chapter to chapter. Part of the story is told directly through Diana’s eyes in a first-person narrative, while other chapters look over Jack’s shoulders. Still other chapters are seen through the eyes of the police, who are trying their best to make sense of what happened as well.

Not everything you read should be taken at face value, and there will be surprises in store, no matter who you believe.

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Black Widow

Black Widow

By Christopher Brookmyre
Atlantic Monthly
ISBN 9780802125736

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