Free Press Journal

The Silent Widow by Sidney Sheldon, Tilly Bagshawe: Review


Title: The Silent Widow
Author: Sidney Sheldon, Tilly Bagshawe
Publisher: HarperCollins
Price: Rs 399


I have read every single book by Sidney Sheldon, watched almost all his movies and TV shows, and those I haven’t watched, are on my wish list. If that doesn’t make me a Sheldon fan, nothing does. So, it comes as no surprise that when I read his name on the newly published book as his author, I jumped to put my hands on it, but with much trepidation. A fan, you see, is inherently in love with the star; a fan keeps his star on a pedestal which nobody can touch let alone sit. So, when the book by Sidney Sheldon bore a name of another writer (in much smaller fonts), a fan had to be anguished. As much as I would like him to write more and again, I wouldn’t want Sheldon to dictate words from grave to another person who would take credit for his work. Similarly, it’s unfair to give credit to Sheldon for another person’s work which actually is this book called The Silent Widow.

Tilly Bagshawe has been authorised by Sheldon’s publishers to write books under his name, to carry forward his legacy as the former has a similar style of writing as Sheldon. This can be a topic of discussion at many Sheldon fan clubs, but we would ignore this point for now. Bagshawe knows her domain, she starts the book with an uncanny resemblance of Sheldon’s books. She’s done her homework, and well too.

The publicists leave no stone unturned to make this as much as older author’s work as Bagshawe’s as the blurb reads: Sweeping from Mexico City to the dark underbelly of LA, The Silent Widow has all the trademark glamour, suspense and unexpected twists of a classic Sidney Sheldon novel.

A young American au pair, Charlotte Clancy, vanishes without a trace in Mexico City. The case is left cold, but its legacy will be devastating. A decade later, LA is shaken by a spate of violent murders. Psychologist, Nikki Roberts is the common link between the victims, her patients at the heart of this treacherous web. When someone makes an attempt on Nikki’s life, it’s clear she is a marked woman. Nikki makes a living out of reading people, drawing out their secrets, but the key to this shocking pattern eludes her. With the police at a dead end Nikki drafts in Derek Williams, a PI who isn’t afraid to put his hand into the hornet’s nest. Williams was thwarted in the notorious Charlotte Clancy case all those years ago, but what he unearths in LA – and the mention of one name in particular – leaves him cold, and takes him on a dangerous path into the past. A shadowy manipulator has brought his deadly game to the streets of LA. In a crime spanning generations, it seems Nikki Roberts knows all too much – and a ruthless killer knows the price of her silence.

As the gist concludes, The Silent Widow has all the elements of thrill, drama and suspense… the staple contents of Sheldon novels. In that sense, Bagshawe’s writing matches that of Sheldon with numerous characters and their history being thrown in the mix of the one running story, a murky situation with an eccentric killer, few incompetent cops, a heavyset private investigator and a beautiful protagonist. But what Bagshawe lacks is the pace of the thrill. Sheldon was a master of drama, his each character had a story to share, his stories never read forcefully spun to meet another person’s level of writing. That’s where Bagshawe loses her punch. She writes beautifully about emotions of each of her characters, she has taken time to get into the minds of her people, but while doing so, she kept losing the pace of the story. There are lots of loose ends, many unanswered questions and quite a few unexplained endings. The start looks promising but the book falters at its climax.

The Silent Widow would have done justice to Bagshawe if it did not carry the burden of Sheldon’s name. His name pins a lot of expectations from the book, which unfortunately it fails to meet completely. Read this book if you like a thriller because it’s one of the best in this genre this year, but just don’t expect a Sheldon magic in it.