Blake’s dead. His wife killed him.
The question is: which one?
The only thing the three women had in common was their husband. And, as of this morning, that they’re each accused of his murder.
Blake Nelson moved into a hidden stretch of land – a raw paradise in the wilds of Utah – where he lived with his three wives:
Rachel, the chief wife, obedient and doting to a fault.
Tina, the other wife, who is everything Rachel isn’t.
And Emily, the youngest wife, who knows little else.
When their husband is found dead under the desert sun, the questions pile up. But none of the widows know who would want to kill a good man like Blake.
Or, at least, that’s what they’ll tell the police…
I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Black Widows by Cate Quinn today. It’s a novel that comes with a brilliant hook and an unusual setting that works brilliantly to keep the reader guessing until the very end.
Set in Utah, Blake and his three wives live in relative isolation where their frowned-upon polygamous marriage causes less fuss than if they lived in Salt Lake City. For me, this unusual family unit sets the novel apart from any other that I’ve read, and I loved the exploration of why people might choose to live that way. There is a religious angle even though polygamy isn’t widely practised by followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Church from hereon in), and there’s a part of me that thinks that Blake just likes to get his rocks off without fear of reprisal. We never actually meet Blake and see him only through the eyes of his three wives, and yet it’s clear that he likes to be in control, playing the three women off against each other and often demoralising them. The fact that he’s been murdered doesn’t really come as a surprise, it’s more a question of who did it and why now.
The three women – Rachel, Emily, and Tina – are all very different, and have different reasons for being in that relationship. Of the three, I liked Tina the most. She’s feisty and smart, and less concerned with the religious side of things than she is with Blake who helped her beat her drug addiction. There’s an element of gratitude there, and yet of all of them she is the one whose past most lends itself to the violence that might make her capable of murder. Rachel is more difficult to connect with. She’s had a traumatic past that is revealed gradually throughout the novel, and it’s a past that she’ll have to face up to as events come to a head. She puts great stock in her position as first wife, thinking it sets her apart from Emily and Tina, and seems to be the only one of the three who believes in their professed religion. She is, frankly, insufferable at times. Does having to compete with two other women push her over the edge when she was there first? And that leaves Emily. She is the quiet one of the group and comes across as being very young and naïve. She was ill-prepared for marriage and the LDS Church, and, at the outset of the novel, it’s hard to imagine Emily doing anything so bold as murdering her husband. But then, they do say that it’s always the quiet ones, and as the novel progresses, she proves herself to be much more capable than was first apparent.
Throughout the novel, I had my suspicions as to who had done the deed and switched back and forth between them. They all had motive and opportunity, and I think that Quinn is successful in keeping the reader guessing until the very end. Blake’s death raises the obvious questions but also reveals secrets that affect Rachel, Emily, and Tina, leading these ladies to undertake a little investigative work of their own. And if they were rivals for Blake’s affection while he was alive, his death gives them the opportunity to get to know each other better. I like the way in which the three begin to bond in the aftermath, particularly as they realise how Blake played them off against each other to prevent them forming alliances that would have diminished his hold over them.
Black Widows is a novel that kept me guessing to the end. There were parts that I figured out, but I didn’t connect the dots correctly or identify the murderer before the denouement. It’s an excellent thriller with an unusual set up and I was hooked from beginning to end.
Black Widows was published on 4 February by Orion. Many thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours and the publisher for the review copy and the opportunity to take part in the blog tour.
About the Author
Cate Quinn is a travel and lifestyle journalist for The Times, the Guardian and the Mirror, alongside many magazines. Prior to this, Quinn’s background in historic research won prestigious postgraduate funding from the British Art Council. Quinn pooled these resources, combining historical research with first-hand experiences in far-flung places to create critically acclaimed and bestselling historical fiction.
Make sure you check out the other wonderful bloggers taking part in the tour: