MV5BMjM3ODc5NDEyOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTI4MDcxNjM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,631,1000_AL_Four women lose their husbands in a robbery gone spectacularly wrong. They find themselves in danger from the victim of the robbery, and the gang leader’s widow, Veronica, realises that the only way to put things right is to carry out the next job her husband had planned.

I was very excited to see Widows, both because I had fond but vague memories of Lynda LaPlante’s original series from (I think) the 1980s, and because of the amazing ensemble cast. The action has been moved from London to Chicago but the key elements, especially the fact that no-one would suspect these women as robbers, are very much in place.

It’s an impressive and gripping film, beautifully structured and with strong performances from everyone involved. The stand-outs for me were Viola Davis as Veronica, Elizabeth Debicki as Alice and Daniel Kaluuya as Jatemme, but to single these performances out is to do a disservice to everyone else in the film. All of the characters are ideally cast and excellently performed, from the members of Harry’s gang whom we see fleetingly at the beginning, to the politicians who are involved in this crime up to their necks.

I saw one critic (I think it was Mark Kermode) say that the writing was particularly strong in that none of the characters felt the need to explain the plot to each other; the audience is trusted to work things out on their own. I think he is absolutely right; the dialogue is so clear and realistic, as you would expect from Gillian Flynn who adapted this from the original series.

It’s less of a heist film than a character piece, but the final robbery is still exciting and heart stopping, and the film’s conclusion is very satisfying. I thought this was absolutely fabulous. My husband’s verdict? “All the men are shits!” And he isn’t wrong!

Highly recommended.

Directed by Steve McQueen, Widows is 129 minutes long and rated 15 for strong violence, sex and strong language.


Femme Fatale: Sick, Sweet & Evil

IMG_0770I didn’t know anything about Chelsea Cain and her series of books about Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell until I came across a TV series called Gone; when I realised it was based on a novel I went looking for it and found the author’s other works. I love a decent serial killer so tried the first one and became hooked.

Since then I have read the first three in the six-book series and I know that I will be reading the remainder (in fact I already have book four on my TBR list) simply because they are so easy to read – I usually devour the whole thing in a single sitting.

But why?

For a start the premise is interesting. Archie Sheridan is a detective investigating a series of murders when he is captured and tortured by the serial killer herself, Gretchen Lowell. Gretchen has inserted herself into the investigation by posing as a psychologist and of course because she is stunningly beautiful and very intelligent no-one suspects that she is the one responsible for what she claims to be 200 murders over a lengthy period of time.

None of this is spoiler territory because it’s all made clear at the very beginning of the first book. She tortures, kills and revives Archie and then surrenders to the police. Once he recovers Archie visits her in prison regularly and for every visit she gives him information on where another of her victims can be found so that closure can be given to the families. Archie thinks he is in control but of course he isn’t; Gretchen is an expert manipulator and through all three of the books she is effectively directing the action.

I won’t go into the plots of the novels; although each is focussed on a particular case the main event is of course the warped relationship between the two main characters as well as the involvement of Susan Ward, a reporter for a local newspaper who is drawn into the ongoing drama.

As with a lot of serial killer novels this is in no way true to life or at all subtle. Gretchen is an almost mythical figure who becomes something of a folk hero to a certain type of person. She is a complete monster in the vein of Hannibal Lecter, with no scruples and an overwhelming desire to cause pain and suffering, though it’s clear that she can stop killing for periods of time when she feels like it. The books are pretty gruesome and almost veer into horror territory but not quite. The problem with series of this type, if you can call it a problem, is the need to keep increasing the tension and gore without falling into camp. The books have managed to avoid that so far.

Having said all that, and noting that if Gretchen really is so striking why does nobody ever seem to notice what she’s up to until it’s too late, I love these books and would recommend them for a quick and enjoyable read.