Friday, August 20, 2021

Book Review: An Ambush of Widows

By Jami Denison

It’s the most common plot in a domestic thriller: The husband disappears or dies, and the wife discovers that he isn’t the man she thought he was. So how about this plot, times two? That’s what author Jeff Abbott decides to do in his latest psychological thriller, An Ambush of Widows. The result, while sometimes uneven, is a good ride.

When Kirsten North gets an anonymous call that her husband Henry has died in Austin, she’s terrified and confused – Henry was supposed to be in New York! Learning that an unidentified man was killed in a warehouse along with Austin venture capitalist Adam Zhang, Kirsten flies to Texas to learn the truth. 

She has no idea that the hitman who killed Henry and Adam is after her.

Meanwhile, Adam’s widow Flora is just as confused and terrified. She knew Adam was keeping secrets—but she thought it was an affair. She doesn’t know who Henry was or what Adam was doing with him—and now the police are asking questions about her marriage. Then Kirsten shows up, and Flora wonders if this woman is her ally, or the real killer.

Abbott bites off a lot with this setup, and the reader does a lot of chewing. The first big surprise was the inclusion of the hit man’s point-of-view. Right away this lets us know that the deaths are professionally criminal in nature. At the same time, the hit man has a job to do before returning home to his very pregnant fiancée. It’s hard not to feel something for him.

Kirsten and Flora are in the same boat, but Kirsten has the much more well-developed back story, with chapters in the past devoted to how she first met Henry and her foster brother, Zach, and the foster parents she and Zach lived with. Now an enforcer for the mob, Zach comes to Austin to protect Kirsten. Flora is suspicious of Kirsten and Zach, as well as Adam’s business partner, his cousin, and the woman who claims to be Adam’s lover. There are twice as many people to keep track of, making the story twice as hard to follow.

I rooted hard for Kirsten; I didn’t feel I knew Flora as well. But the introduction of all the mob elements was a turn-off for me. I hate mob stories, and I’m not sure they fit well into traditional domestic thrillers. With so many characters and with the back stories being so important, the ending felt convoluted and overly complicated to me. But Abbott did leave enough unresolved to give himself material for a sequel.

An Ambush of Widows has a great concept, and Abbott delivers in many places. But readers might need a spreadsheet to keep track of all the characters and twists.   

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Jeff Abbott:

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