On first glance I did not find the cover of Cate Quinn’s latest book Black Widows enticing.
Consequently, it has sat in my reading pile for the last six months, however, once I started reading it, I was hooked and finished it in three days.
Black Widows is a classic whodunnit. A man has been brutally murdered on a remote farm in Utah, where he lives with three women.
The police suspect one of the women killed the man, but the question is which one, as none of them has a cast-iron alibi.
What elevates Black Widows from being just another detective novel is that the book is narrated from the perspective of the three women suspects, who are the wives of the murdered man.
They have all had a troubled childhood which leaves them vulnerable and susceptible to being seduced by Blake, an All-American boy and a ‘born-in, died-in-the-wool Latter Day Saint’, who practices plural marriage.
The three ‘sister wives’ could not be more different.
Rachel, the first wife, is a devout Morman. She was bought up in a cult and even though she escaped from that environment in her teens, her past life and particularly the actions of the cult leader, ‘the Prophet’ continues to haunt her.
Tina is a former drug addict and prostitute, whom Blake met in rehab. She is everything Rachel is not. A streetwise risktaker whose nickname for Rachel is ‘The Wicked Witch of the West.’
Emily is the youngest and most naïve of the three. Bought up a Catholic, she is a habitual liar, who is constantly seeking the approval of her narcissistic mother, who has disowned her.
As the plot unfolds, it turns out that polygamy is illegal in Utah which is why Blake has chosen to purchase the remote farmhouse.
Furthermore, he is not the god- fearing devout Morman, his mother claims him to be at his funeral. He is a misogynist, who mistreats each of his wives.
He hides his wheeling and dealings from Rachel, has kinky sex with Tina and physically abuses Emily, with the imprimatur of Bishop Young of the Temple of the Church of Latter-Day Saints. Furthermore, it is rumoured he is seeking a fourth wife.
Each of the three wives has a strong motive to kill Blake, yet each claims to love him.
The novel has many twists and turns interlaced with some fascinating details about Utah and the beliefs of members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints.
Ultimately the killer is unmasked and while her identity is predictable the novel’s ending, where Rachel, Tina and Emily find a place in heaven is much less so.
As the old adage goes, one should not judge a book by its cover.