Black Widows by Cate Quinn

I can’t believe I have never read a book by Cate Quinn before! ‘Black Widows’ is my first, but it certainly won’t be my last.

Interestingly, the first thing that struck me on opening this book, wasn’t the cover, or the writing, or the synopsis, but the disclaimer (for want of a better word) before the story even begins, and credited to the book, ‘Educated’ by author and historian, Tara Westover: ‘This story is not about Mormonism. Neither is it about any other form of religious belief. (…) There are many types of people, some believers, some not; some kind, some not. The author disputes any correlation, positive or negative, between the two.’

(In my own, very humble opinion), religion is one of the most controversial subjects that anyone could choose to write about, spiritually, scientifically, morally, and many other ways. The fact that Cate Quinn has chosen to write a fictional story about orthodox Mormons and the animosity that the tradition of pluralism (one husband, many wives) was brave indeed, and the very fact that she felt the need to add the Tara Westover quote indicates that she expected opinion to be divided.

Soooo, what am I waffling on about you might ask. Well, orthodox Mormon and subsequently, societal outcast Blake has been found murdered, strangled with his own belt. Strangely, his wedding ring finger has been hacked off and is missing. Suspicion immediately falls upon his wives; not one, but three, with rumours of a fourth in the pipeline. They are Rachel, the homemaker, the first wife; Tina, rescued from a depraved life of sex and drug addiction; and Emily, ditsy, fragile, maybe a little mad.

As the story is told from the different perspectives of Rachel, Tina and Emily, so dark secrets are uncovered and memories emerge of a religious cult where bad things happened.

The three wives’ characters are brilliantly depicted; each very different in their personality, role and outlook. They are fierce rivals for the attentions of Blake, and a place in his bed at night…and yet, as the story progresses, although still unsure of each other, an affectionate alliance develops between them in their quest to find the killer of their husband.

The end wasn’t entirely a surprise, but that didn’t detract in any way from what I found to be a fascinating story about a culture I know very little about.

I give this book four stars.

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