The Woman in the Window: A.J. Finn
Pages: 427 (paperback)
Anna Fox is a prisoner of her own home. She can’t venture outside; she’ll have a panic attack if she does. Trapped inside, she spends her time watching classic movies and spying on their neighbors. She is especially fascinated by her new neighbors, the Russells. They are the perfect family. One night, Anna is watching them and sees something terrible. Should she get involved? With her drinking habit, how does she know that she even saw it to begin with? What is real and what isn’t? Perhaps nothing is what it seems.
A defining characteristic of this story is not just who did it or what happened, but the style in which it’s told. The last time I read a “film noir” style story, I was disappointed. The author got so lost in description that I forgot what I was reading about, the characters acted like robots, and not very much happened. So I had been dancing around picking this up over the course of several trips to the bookstore.
Fortunately, I had the opposite experience with The Woman in the Window. Finn creates a vintage, chilling atmosphere by describing in detail Anna’s house, in turns creepy and comforting. The descriptions, too, are concise and get to the point. Each detail adds and is relevant to the creepy feeling of the book, making for an enjoyable reading experience. Word choices are poetic, but never too much so. Overall, a great job there. Megan Abbott should take notes. The language was just as much fun to read as the plotline was.
I, unfortunately, was at a disadvantage when it came to plot twists. The first twist was the exact same twist that occurred in the previous book I read, which was not even a thriller. Yeah. It was literally the same twist. I unfortunately wasn’t too surprised, but this is in no way the author’s fault; the odds of reading a book, especially in two subgenres, with the exact same twist, are terrible. Objectively, I think it was a great idea. This is just a warning to readers not to read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine around the same time. And even if you do, and aren’t surprised, there are even more twists that will surprise you and reel you in. What truly defines a family? As we all know, we can never make assumptions. A spooky atmosphere isn’t much without the action, and Finn provides us with plenty of moments to pique our interest.
As for the characters, the protagonist is nobody we haven’t seen before. Anna Fox lives alone and has interests relevant to the themes in the book–in this case, thrilling classic movies. I don’t usually like when authors constantly drop references to what inspired their work and explicitly point out how they were inspired via the narrator, but in this case, I thought it was a fun quirk, alongside her chess playing. She did something bad that made me lose a lot of sympathy for her revealed in flashbacks, the bad thing being somewhat of a trope by now. She loves to drink wine. And…deep sigh…..missing fathers do play a minor role as well. I don’t understand for the life of me why we can’t ever have a character that gets along with their living dad. Fortunately, they’re barely talked about. The mentions were just enough to make me roll my eyes before getting back to reading. Despite the presence of tropes, including detectives who could be more competent, the novel surprisingly rarely descends into cliche territory. I personally never knew what was going to happen next. Even more interesting are the interactions that Anna has with others. I especially liked GrannyLizzie, a user that Anna talks to on her online agoraphobia community, and Ethan, the teenage boy next door that Anna bonds with. I also liked that Anna had a young daughter. Still, the fairly typical MC issue takes a backseat to the chilling way the story is told. And with her supposed unreliability, she was interesting all the same.
I did notice one gaping plothole that bothered me: How can Anna live alone and afford the house if her husband isn’t living? If this is addressed and I’ve just forgotten, please leave a comment.)
This was a thrilling, well-paced novel that any thriller fan should pick up, but be warned that it will be tough to put down. Complete with the rare satisfying climactic scenes, this is a must for your collection. If I had nitpicky complaints, it would be that I thought that one chilling scene near the end wasn’t necessary and the aforementioned plothole, but those are very minor and don’t take away from the story. The uniqueness of The Woman in the Window makes it a great addition to the genre.