Book Review: The Young Widow (2005)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the British murder mystery written by Cassandra Chan.

Synopsis: When wealthy businessman Geoffrey Berowne is poisoned, ambitious Scotland Yard sergeant Jack Gibbons is assigned to help with the investigation and invites his wealthy friend, Phillip Bethancourt, to accompany him as a consultant. The primary suspect in Berowne's death is his much younger wife, Annette. However, despite having a motive and two other much-older husbands who died suddenly, Scotland Yard does not have enough evidence to arrest her. To make matters worse, Annette is a very charming woman who, in no time at all, has Jack under her spell. Realizing his friend's career could be in jeopardy, Bethancourt must find evidence of Annette's guilt or innocence before it it too late.


I ended up picking out this book at our local library a few days ago pretty much at random. I have been making an effort to widen my horizons by trying out different authors (even though I'm still pretty much sticking to one genre) and this book was within arm's reach of the Hamish Macbeth book I also checked out.

After getting this book, I find I was a little concerned about it because, from the title and photo on the cover, I wasn't sure if it would be a good murder mystery or if it would wind up being more of a romance novel. As it turns out, it wound up being the former. But, my overall opinion of it was mixed.

The Young Widow
The Young Widow

I did think the book's murder mystery was pretty intriguing, mostly because of the main suspect in the case, Annette. One one hand, she seemed very friendly and potentially a little too meek to be a cold-blooded killer. And, from all accounts, she was a loving and faithful wife despite the age difference between her and her husband.

However, on the other hand, she did have two previous dead husbands and a sketchy alibi. Plus, there didn't seem to be any other legitimate suspects, especially since the only other people who had the opportunity to kill Geoffrey would have been much more likely to try to kill Annette instead.

As a result of this, her eventual romance with Jack Gibbons did create added suspicion. Her feelings could have been real. Or, she could have simply been manipulating one of the men trying to prove she was guilty.

My biggest problem with this book is actually the main hero, Philip Bethancourt. While there were some things to like about him, I also found he just didn't win me over.

A big part of the reason for this is he never actually takes over the case, which is something I would expect him to do, Sure, he did some investigating on his friend's behalf and found out some new information. But, his eventual solving of the mystery was done almost completely by accident and required almost no deductive reasoning. So, compared to other fictional detectives, that did bump him down a notch in my eyes.

Another reason I feel I just didn't like him that much was the book really doesn't do that great of a job of explaining why he is involved in the first place. Yes, it mentions he helped with previous cases. But, other than being rich and friends with Jack, his resume seemed a little light, especially since, again, he didn't really do anything on this case that wowed me.

Perhaps if the book would have taken the time to give details about how he previously helped the Scotland Yard, I might have warmed up to him a bit more. But, based on this book, I don't think he did anything Jack couldn't have ultimately done on his own, making him a somewhat wasted character.

Final Opinion

I liked the overall mystery. But, with Philip Bethancourt being considerably underwhelming as a lead character, I'm not sure I am interested in reading any more books from this series.

My Grade: C

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Updated: 05/16/2019, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 02/09/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
Bethancourt appears to fit into the mold of a wealthy young man with time on his hands. Would he be at all like Sherlock Holmes as portrayed in the Elementary series by Johnny Lee Miller?

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