Review: The Black Widow by Louise Worthington

cover of The Black WidowThe Black Widow by Louise Worthington
Self-published (October 2022)
116 pages; $10.44 paperback; $4.23 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Louise Worthington started writing psychological thrillers and horror in 2019 after studying for a postgraduate diploma in psychology and reading true crime non-fiction. Her degree is in literature, and she taught English in secondary schools for many years. The emotional pull of a story is very important to her, both as a reader and a writer. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Horror Writers Association (HWA). Her latest work-in-progress, a psychological horror novel, recently won the top spot on Litopia with agent Peter Cox. Her family lives in Shropshire, a rural, historic county in the UK. Her day job is tutoring and running a farm with her husband. Their newest collection of dark poetry is the independently published The Black Widow

The Black Widow is a collection of poetry influenced by true crime poetry and literary heroines. The spider’s web is a powerful metaphor for exploring cases of injustice and abused women who kill. For example, one of the early poems, “One for Sorrow,” focuses on Angela Cannings, who was falsely accused of murdering her three children based on “expert testimony” by a medical practitioner who was later struck from the General Medical Council. To tell this story, Worthington taps into British magpie rhymes to weave an intricate confessional poem. 

Elsewhere, Worthington taps into literary allusion. For example, “Lady Macbeth’s Monster” is a loosely metered sonnet based on curses and infertility. This synthesis of subjects, from the very contemporary and real to the classic and literary, creates an overwhelming theme of injustice and oppression that permeates this collection. 

This is certainly not the first collection of true crime poetry nor feminist-based crime poetry. Louise Worthington has entered into oft-trod territory, so the onus is upon her to do something new and exciting with it. By focusing on the victims, especially the innocent victims, and by paralleling them against classic literary examples, Worthington is able to create a poetic argument that women and children have always been maligned and oppressed when it comes to the legal systems, and not only does this patriarchal subjugation stretch back throughout history, but it also continues up until the present day. Worthington has infused her horror with a socio-political consciousness, which the best of horror poets can do, and this propels her collection over others of similar subject matter. 

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