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'The Widow's Secret' by Brian Thompson tells the story of Bella Wallis, a mysterious widow who leads a secret life writing sensationalist novels under the pen-name of Henry Ellis Margam. Upon finding a crested cigar case near the body of a dead prostitute, Bella has a potential plot for her latest book unfolding before her very eyes. With help from her misfit band of friends, Bella embarks on a dangerous trail which leads her into the sordid world of Lord Bolsover.
I have to admit that I picked out this book mainly due to its interesting cover, and the fact that I do enjoy a good Victorian detective story - unfortunately, after reading this book, I came to the conclusion that more effort had gone into the cover than into the plot.
Due to some of the language used by the author, I found the book to be quite hard work, resulting in me skim reading sections through frustration. Thompson spends too much time introducing the characters, and not enough time creating a fluent and interesting story.
As a main character, Bella is a good, strong female lead in a time when women were still expected to be seen and not heard, but at times she comes across as unlikable due to occasional unnecessary rudeness towards others.
Also assumedly in an attempt to be scandalous, the author has provided Bella with a live-in-lover in the form of a young (an annoying) French girl Marie Claude, who would appear to be completely unnecessary to the story. The book also overuses same sex relationships (there's three or four of them in total) and inadvertently depicts all of these couplings as sordid and immoral affairs.
Our villain Lord Bolsover, is a nasty piece of work - a sadistic, misogynistic, and outright evil creation with no redeeming features whatsoever. I felt Thompson had gone too far when creating Bolsover, he is so inhuman that I think he wasn't a believable character.
Whilst trying not to reveal how the story ends, one of my major dislikes about the book is the fact that once she obtains enough material for her novel, Bella basically gives up her hunt for the 'bad-guys', randomly leaving a secondary character to punish the story's villains. Although different, I found this half-hearted attempt at a climax to be very disappointing.
I had high hopes for The Widow's Secret, but ultimately found it to be a big let down. The story was rather dull and slow, and the secondary characters turned out to be more interesting and likable than Bella. The book did have a few decent moments, but there were far too many unnecessary parts to make it an enjoyable read.
You can purchase The Widows Secret for £4.61 from Amazon.