Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Woman in the Window

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn
Harper Collins: 1/2/18
eBook review copy; 448 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062678416

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn is a very highly recommended Hitchcockian/Rear Window novel of psychological suspense. 

"That's a secret, private world you're looking into out there. People do a lot of things in private that they couldn't possibly explain in public."  Doyle in Rear Window

Unable to leave the house due to agoraphobia induced by trauma, Anna Fox is a former child psychologist who has been living alone in her NYC home for a little under a year. She spends her time drinking too much wine, unreliably medicating herself, and watching old movies. She checks in evenings with her husband, who recently separated from her, and their daughter. Her social life is online. She participates in an online support group for agoraphobics and provides new-comers with encouragement and advice. She plays chess and she takes French lessons online. She has a tenant downstairs to help her. Anna's psychiatrist and physical therapist make house calls.

She also spends a lot of time spying on her neighbors using her camera's zoom lens. When the Russells, father, mother, and teenage son, move into one of the five townhouses that Anna watches across the street, she does online research and knows immediately their names and what they paid for the house. When the son stops by and delivers a gift from his mother, Anna is surprised, but likes the boy. Then she actually meets the mother and is surprised at how much she enjoys her company (drinking). So when she witnesses a horrific, shocking event while watching them, she knows she needs to contact the police. But did she really see it or was it the combination of taking her medication with alcohol causing hallucinations.

The character of Anna is a wonderfully unreliable narrator. Clearly she is drinking w-a-y-t-o-o much and she knows she shouldn't take her medications with alcohol, but she does anyway, lies about it, and she knows she is not taking them as prescribed. The daily drinking until drunk is over the top (and annoying to some), but it does serve to make it clear that Anna may not be reliable or telling the truth. There are hints and glimpses that we don't know the whole story, that we really don't know Anna, and as the novel progresses, that fact becomes more and more clear. She has secrets, she's certainly paranoid, she's in denial, but is she delusional?

After a careful, slow start, The Woman in the Window took off at a gallop. The story, as it unraveled, was gripping and compelling. I stayed up way-too-late finishing the novel, telling myself, "Just one more chapter." There were several twists that took me by surprised and some I suspected. Finn found a way to have Anna housebound so the comparison's to Rear Window are obvious. Personally,  I liked the tie-ins to Rear Window and other Hitchcock movies, as well as other old black and white suspense movies. I thought they help create an atmospheric mood and added an extra depth to the novel. Finn also left some clues throughout the novel to keep the reader questioning and anticipating twists.

All in all, I found The Woman in the Window to be an excellent debut thriller of psychological suspense. The writing is remarkable and the plot is clever, sophisticated, and twisty enough to bring to mind some the best of Hitchcock's movies.  Definitely read The Woman in the Window.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Harper Collins.

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