Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

In keeping with my last post, I chose this book from atop a pile of recently acquired galleys. I first heard about this book when I attended a librarian's preview event inside the glossy offices of a very, very large publisher last fall. The author was the featured guest speaker and I found him to be witty, sardonic, and he basically charmed me into wanting to read his book. (These author appearances sometimes work exactly as they are meant to!) I should say now that I am forever grateful for these opportunities to not only hear about these titles before they are published but also to be given a super maxi extreme ultra exclusive copy of the pre-pub book. 

Finn's novel is told through the eyes of Anna, a former child psychologist who has become a shut in, suffering from crippling agoraphobia after experiencing a trauma that isn't at first revealed. She spends her days in a drug and wine tainted stupor, looking out the window of her Manhattan brownstone, spying on her neighbors. The world outside arrives to her dark, quiet house through the lens of her camera and through the online worlds of support groups and chess games that she visits each day. She has been separated from her husband and young daughter and, aside from her downstairs tenant, her physical and mental health visits, the occasional phone call, and the classic old films she loves and watches often, she spends most of her time inside her head. 

When the house across the street is bought by a couple with a teenaged son, Anna expects to add them to her roster of people to check up on through her window; it is business as usual. Until one day, she is visited by the wife and mother of the family. She thinks she has found a new friend and bonds with this woman over a lot of red wine and for someone like Anna, a lonely and solitary person, this is quite an event. A short time later, Anna witnesses a terrible scene through her window. She sees her new friend stabbed and bleeding and though she tries to make her way across the street to get to her but, thanks to her crippling fear and heavy drinking, she is unable. In the aftermath, she finds that no one believes what she saw. She can't prove anything, least of all, that the woman ever existed. Did she imagine everything? Is she sicker than she thought? What is everyone hiding? Anna must face her own unreliable memory as well as the pain of her own past in order to get to the truth. 

I enjoyed everything about this book. From the opening pages, it read like an old school noir tale with a fresh take on a familiar trope. Comparisons to classics like Rear Window and Rope will pepper the buzz around this title and they are well deserved. Anna is a classic heroine of this type of mystery, which blends the old school noir mysteries of 1940s cinema with the unreliable narrator/damaged woman protagonists of modern suspense stories like The Girl on the Train. Finn is great at setting an atmosphere that blends these two moods together. I liked Anna as a character because she is complex and surprising. Though I have to admit that I saw the twist coming way before it happened, I didn't anticipate the way she would react as a character and I was pleasantly surprised. Considering the buzz surrounding this book and the fact that the film rights have already been purchased, I have no doubt that this will make a good adaptation. I hope they choose a retro feel to it, since the book has it in spades. 

I recommend this to fans of noir suspense in both book and film form. 

1 comment:

  1. Reading it now. So far two twists that I saw coming but it's much better written than these thrillers usually are.