This blockbusting debut novel, already a no. 1 bestseller in the US, is a deeply satisfying psychological thriller, very much in the tradition of publishing sensation The Girl on The Train, its protagonist also a vulnerable, mentally-tortured young woman.
Finn’s woman in the window is Dr Anna Fox, a highly competent child psychologist suffering from agonising agoraphobia, terrified by ‘the vast skies, the endless horizon, the sheer exposure, the crushing pressure of the outdoors’. Anna lives alone, trapped inside her four walls while her husband and daughter live apart from her on medical advice.
Anna is desperately lonely and utterly miserable. She spends her days sitting in the window taking photographs of her neighbours, spying on their lives. She takes large amounts of medication but also mixes it with rivers of Merlot, which she downs by the bottle. Needless to say the mixture of booze and prescription drugs confuses and addles her brain, leaving her to speculate wildly about her neighbours’ lives.
Despite her mental health issues, Anna is a likeable character – intelligent, generous and warm. In her capacity as a psychologist she counsels fellow-sufferers of agoraphobia on-line. She does it very well, and, ironically, she helps them a lot, even though she can’t help herself.
In her muddled mind Anna becomes fascinated by a new set of neighbours, the Russells, who live just across from her. She watches their house endlessly from her window and one day she hears a blood-curdling scream and witnesses what seems to be a murder in their home.
The police don’t believe Anna. No murder has occurred, they say. Confused and frightened, she begins to think she’s hallucinating: ‘I feel as though I’m falling through my own mind.’
The family living just opposite Anna’s New York home consists of father, mother and teenage son. They seem the perfect family although Anna suspects the mother is having an affair, which leads her to believe there is a motive for the woman’s murder.
A J Finn is masterful in his description of Anna’s kaleidoscopic state of mind. What is real? Is she just imagining things? Who is in danger? Who is the killer, if there is a killer? Nothing is what it seems.
Anna’s fuzzy head, confusion caused by alcoholism and the suffocating claustrophobia brought on by not leaving her house for a year is beautifully conveyed. As is her passion for classic thriller movies, which she watches obsessively. This is all obviously leading to a powder-keg finale, and very satisfying it is too.
Anna’s fixation with old thriller films neatly chimes with the deeply Hitchcockian nature of this novel. Like the master’s Rear Window and Strangers on a Train, Finn subtly meddles with reality, perception and deception. It’s very neatly done, a clever and completely unputdownable phsychological thriller, written with the same shifting veil of vision as Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train. If you loved those novels you’ll enjoy this just as much, and, like those two bestsellers, The Woman in the Window is also being made into a film. It will star Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, and Gary Oldman.
Judy and I have no doubt whatsoever it will be a massive success – like this book.