The Blurb On The Back:
I know what I saw.
What did she see?
It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.
Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.
But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?
The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
10 months ago Dr Anna Fox was a successful child psychologist living in a fabulous 5-storey house in Harlem, New York with her husband Ed and young daughter Olivia. Now she and Ed are separated and, having developed severe agoraphobia, the fabulous house has become a prison that she’s unable to leave except for very short bursts and only when holding an umbrella to cut out the world around her. Her only physical contact with the outside world is through her lodger, David, who rents the basement unit and does odd jobs for her. Otherwise she participates in an on-line forum for other agoraphobics and takes on-line courses, self-medicates by mixing alcohol with her prescribed drugs and when not watching classic black and white thrillers, likes to spy on the lives of her neighbours through the lens of her camera.
Then the Russells move in: Alistair and Jane and their teenage son Ethan and although Anna strikes up an awkward friendship with Jane and Ethan, she can’t help but continue to snoop on them. So when she hears a deathly scream one night and sees Jane with a knife in her body, she’s convinced that she’s witnessed a murder. But no one else says that they heard the scream and the Russells are adamant that Jane is still alive – only the woman they introduce to the police as Jane is different to the woman that Anna befriended …
A. J. Finn’s debut psychological thriller is an obvious nod to REAR WINDOW but while Finn writes sympathetically about the plight of agoraphobics, the plot is trite and predictable such that I guessed every twist and Anna’s behaviour so self-destructive that it became difficult to sympathise with or root for her, especially when she conveniently forgot evidence that would have supported her assertions.
My main problem with the book was with the portrayal of Anna because while I sympathised with the scenes depicting her emotional response when forced to go outside, given that we’re told that she’s a psychologist I found it difficult to relate to her self-destructive behaviour when it came to drinking too much alcohol and mixing it with her meds because it was so obviously there to make her an unreliable narrator. This is particularly frustrating when she experiences convenient black outs that means she forgets certain interactions or performing certain actions which would have enabled her to defend herself against those doubting what she saw. I also thought that as a psychologist, she was remarkably poor at analysing the people around her – even when certain traits are obvious from the start – such that when she’s forced to use her skills towards the end of the book, I had to wonder whether she was ever actually any good at her job.
Without giving anything away, I guessed every plot twist in this novel way before it happened – mainly because I found Finn to be too heavy handed in his foreshadowing, with the result that certain key events had a depressing inevitability to them that made me struggle to remain interested. At the same time I found the ending to be ridiculously melodramatic – although to be fair I think this was because Finn was paying homage to the classic thrillers he references within the novel – but the effect was to leave me cold.
Ultimately, I just didn’t see that this book brought anything new or interesting to the genre and I can’t say that I would rush to read Finn’s next book on the strength of this one.
THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW will be released in the United Kingdom on 25th January 2018. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the ARC of this book.