Black Widows: Book summary and reviews of Black Widows by Cate Quinn

Black Widows

A Novel

by Cate Quinn

Black Widows by Cate Quinn X
Black Widows by Cate Quinn
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2021
    432 pages
    Genre: Thrillers

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About this book

Book Summary

For fans of The Wife Between Us and The Dry comes a chilling murder mystery that takes a domestic thriller's classic question―"Did his wife kill him?"―and twists it into an completely new type of suspense.

Polygamist Blake Nelson built a homestead on a hidden stretch of land―a raw paradise in the wilds of Utah―where he lived with his three wives:

Rachel, the first wife, obedient and doting to a fault, with a past she'd prefer to keep quiet. Tina, the rebel wife, everything Rachel isn't, straight from rehab and the Vegas strip. And Emily, the young wife, naïve and scared, estranged from her Catholic family.

The only thing that they had in common was Blake. Until all three are accused of his murder.

When Blake is found dead under the desert sun, all three wives become suspect―not only to the police, but to each other. As the investigation draws them closer, each wife must decide who can be trusted. With stories surfacing of a notorious cult tucked away in the hills, whispers flying about a fourth wife, and evidence that can't quite explain what had been keeping Blake busy, the three widows face a reckoning that might shatter all they know to be true.

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What did you think of Blake Nelson? Did your opinion change throughout the book?
  2. Do you think Rachel, Emily, and Tina are really so different from each other? What similarities do they have?
  3. What do you think keeps the three women together after Blake's death? Why don't they go their own separate ways?
  4. Because of their polygamy, Rachel, Emily, and Tina struggle to find acceptance. How would you feel in their place, rejected by people both within and without your religious community?
  5. What did you think of Emily's outburst at the funeral? What was the final straw for her?
  6. On the Homestead, in her marriage, and in her questioning by her lawyer, Rachel gets used to men making decisions about how she should behave. How does this shape her...
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Media Reviews

"Original, informative, suspenseful—the big three in a literary slam bang." – New York Journal of Books

"Powerful." - Bustle

"A compulsively readable page-turner… not to be missed." - CrimeReads

"The reader learns much about fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints culture and religion as the plot labors toward an unexpected answer to whodunit. An uplifting ending may mollify those put off by some graphic sex and disturbing scenes of cult practices involving underage girls. Quinn is a writer to watch." - Publishers Weekly

"Black Widows is an absolutely thrilling novel. I devoured it over a weekend, unable to put it down. It's a clever and completely original take on a domestic thriller. Highly recommended." - Alex Michaelides, author of #1 New York Times bestseller The Silent Patient

"Black Widows is a bombshell of a suspense novel! The story unfolds through three sister-wives married to the same man, and each woman is unique, fascinating, and full of surprises. This tantalizing and troubling story will keep you guessing right up to the end." - Samantha Downing, bestselling author of My Lovely Wife and He Started It

"Black Widows is a tense portrayal of an unconventional family and the secrets each one of them carries. With the murder of their husband, three sister wives must contend with their own pasts while suspecting the others of the crime. Quinn masterfully paints each woman with a different brush, making her unique, compelling...and suspicious. As tensions unravel and secrets are revealed, you will race to the end, watching the puzzle assemble into a picture you never imagined." - Julie Clark, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Flight

"Part page-turning whodunit, part desert domestic noir, Black Widows is a sly, contemporary crime masterpiece. I loved it." - Adrian McKinty, author of The Chain

"Quinn gives her readers an exquisite murder mystery, taking us through uncharted territory of off-the-grid, modern-day intentional communities. Black Widows is a steady, slow boil you'll be happy to immerse yourself in." - Christina Dalcher, international bestselling author of Vox and Master Class

"Black Widows is a brilliant joyride in the company of three unforgettable women, sister-wives with nothing in common except their dead husband. Completely compelling and vividly told, the story plays with your loyalties and makes you question what counts as moral behaviour. This is a hugely enjoyable and original mystery with real heart, and I loved it." - Jane Casey, author of The Burning and How to Fall

"It's unusual to read a story that reveals a completely different life, but that's exactly what Black Widows does. A thrilling tale which twists and turns along an immersive desert landscape, with a surprising Thelma & Louise style ending that makes you feel proud of the sisterhood." - Araminta Hall, author of Our Kind of Cruelty

"Oh my God, THIS BOOK! Mormon man--three wives, living survivalist lives-is murdered. Each wife is a suspect. I could NOT put it down!!! Utterly compelling, nuanced characterisation, such atmosphere. I LOVED it!" - Marian Keyes, international bestselling author of The Break and Grown Ups

"I loved this book. It's both a fascinating glimpse into a hidden world and brilliantly twisty crime novel. Three wives, three motives, three utterly compelling stories." - Elly Griffiths, author of the Dr. Ruth Galloway mysteries

"The marriage thriller given a wicked new twist. Claustrophobic, intense and absolutely gripping Black Widows announces the arrival of a major new talent into the halls of domestic noir." - Eva Dolan, author of the Zigic and Ferreira series

"Everything about this book-the plot, the characters, the telling-is strikingly original. And highly recommended. Brilliantly imagined, compellingly told, a tale of survival against the odds, told with insight and compassion. The voices of the three wives will stay with the reader long after the book is finished." - Chris Hammer, international bestselling author of Scrublands and Silver

"It's a great hook and a tremendous read-I thoroughly enjoyed this. The tension ramps up all the way to the end and I loved the relationship between the wives." - Harriet Tyce, international bestselling author of Blood Orange

This information about Black Widows shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Betsy Ritchie

Black Widows
Black Widows revolves around three very different women who happen to be sister wives. Much of the intrigue of the book is figuring out how these women and their The short chapters from the viewpoint of each of them adds to the suspense. Highly recommended.

Jeanette L. (Marietta, GA)

Black Widows
In an arid lonely desert in Utah a man, a polygamist, and his three wives live in a very dilapidated house. When the story begins the man, Blake has been found brutally mutilated.
The story develops slowly as we meet the wives; they are all very different from each other and the only thing they really want is to please Blake.
As the investigation of Blake's death begins the wives are the only suspect. Which one killed him? I loved the way this story progresses as we meet the wives their stories and how they got here. We also find out a little of the Mormon rituals and religion.
I liked this story very much.

Vicky R. (Roswell, GA)

Whopper of a thriller!
I loved this book and all of the tension that went with it! A list of characters that hit the mark and kept me guessing until the end. Subject matter that is certainly on the forefront right it should be. No spoilers, read for yourself and prepare to be intrigued and spellbound.

Iris F. (Delray Beach, FL)

The Black Widows
To coin a phrase "this book had me at hello...". Short succinct chapters drew me in immediately. My curiosity about Mormons and other secretive groups such as Scientology, Jim Jones cult grabbed me. The three wives had well developed and distinct personalities and I felt sympathetic towards all three. The very short chapters moved the story along quickly and kept my interest piqued. My only problem, if there was one was that since the chapters were so short and my interest was so high I found myself reading till the wee hours of the night. This was a highly enjoyable read and perfect entertainment for a COVID-19 winter read!

Nanette S. (San Pierre, IN)

Black Widows
Not your usual husband/wife thriller - one husband, three wives, with more wives on the way? One may never know because Blake is dead and all three wives are suspects. Through the story, with each wife telling their version, both with Blake and each other, their respective pasts are revealed. All three are untrustworthy, so which one comes closest to actually telling the truth. The subject matter about polygamy, and the parts about Homestead, a cult like living compound, where Rachel the first wife grew up, are somewhat uncomfortable to read. Yes, some sex is discussed, yet I did not find it too graphic. The chapters are short and the story moves along very smoothly. It is not hard to say "just one more chapter!" I would recommend this one and will read more from this author.

Helene M. (Sarasota, FL)

Made reading a fun again!
Fun may not be exactly the right word for the feeling evoked by a murder mystery, but this book certainly did make me want to visit book stores, and talk to others about books once more. Let me explain: for the past year plus, so much of what I've seen being published has been books about some marginalized person or group, or about what's wrong with America and our way of life, or about being "woke." Frankly, I've found them tiresome. I read for entertainment, not for challenges to my core beliefs.

Then, along comes Black Widows by Cate Quinn, a well-written, absorbing, well-plotted book about three women married to the same man at the same time. Their husband has been murdered, but who is his killer? Quinn draws her characters well - each wife loves Blake, but each has a resentment or a problem with him, or with his extended family.

If you like mysteries and suspense as much as I do, and if you like to stay up late turning pages (even when you know you should turn off the lights), then you'll enjoy Black Widows! It's a "fun" read, a book that makes reading an interesting diversion rather than a rant.

...17 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Cate Quinn Author Biography

Cate (Catherine) Quinne was a travel and lifestyle journalist for The Times, The Guardian and The Mirror, alongside many magazines. Prior to journalism and fiction, her background in historic research won prestigious postgraduate funding from the British Art Council.

Combining research skills with far-flung travel experiences helped her delve into different communities and worlds to create page-turning thrillers in interesting locations. She is currently a novelist both as an independent author and with Amazon publishing. Her novels have sold more than 500,000 copies worldwide.

Cate is based in Brighton, England.

Author Interview
Link to Cate Quinn's Website

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