The Woman in the Window is a best selling mystery book by A.J. Finn. Published in January 2018 it took the literary world by storm so to speak. It is now on schedule to become a major motion picture.
This is not a cozy mystery but it does not have graphic violence or gore. The main character, Dr. Anna Fox, is however out to solve a crime that only she believes actually occurred. Many refer to it as a psychological thriller.
Paging Dr. Fox…
We first meet Anna where we will ultimately spend most of our time with her- boozed up in her home.
She suffers from agoraphobia and apparently alcoholism as well. Anna can hardly go an entire page without a sip of the red stuff and needless to say she strongly prefers Merlot. We discover that she is a former child psych, having left her practice in order to stay home in her New York City brownstone and gaze out of her windows with a camera in hand.
Her days are spent with glasses of wine, old movies and a camera at the ready to take in some action. As a result of her agoraphobia she faces crippling fear when attempting to leave her home and has not been out in about a year. But that doesn’t stop things from coming to her. From food delivery to stone cold murder she gets it all through the windows and doors of her domicile.
The cast of enablers…
Of course if one is to never leave their home they must have a support team around them right? Anna’s team is comprised of her husband and daughter, Ed and Olivia, from which she is separated. She also has a Physical Therapist that comes around every week or so. To round out the team there is a psych who suspects that she is boozing it up and prescribes her meds that she washes down with merlot anyway.
She spends time online helping other people who suffer from agoraphobia as well as playing chess. Her neighbors never come around anymore until one day a new one does. And that is when things start to get interesting.
Through the drinking glass…
It is very hard to tell with Anna what is real and what is not and even the book’s narrative made my head spin a bit. I felt like I was drunk in college again only I was pretending to live in NYC and had money for expensive wine. Whoever wrote this certainly knows what it feels like to go on a binder.
And as a reader even I started to question what exactly was happening many times.
Jane is…? No, seriously!
Enter the new neighbor, Jane Russell, who brings some life to this monotonous existence. She’s vibrant and embraces Anna immediately, having saved her from being pelted with eggs the one time she does venture outside around Halloween. She seems to really understand Anna and doesn’t even mind that she lives in a bathrobe.
After spending a couple of days with her new friend and meeting her home schooled son, Ethan, Anna is shocked to witness someone in Jane’s household being murdered. There is a dramatic scene in which she drops her camera and calls the police slurring like a drunken sailor.
Once again we find ourselves victims of her shaky narrative and clouded thinking. She has to be the most unreliable narrator in the history of mystery narration.
Alistair… the husband across the street
Alistair has an absolute disdain for Anna. From the very beginning he is wary of her and wants nothing more than for her to quit being nosey and stay out of his life. Good luck with that my friend. Nosey is her middle name.
Ethan… the kid across the street
Ed warns Anna early on not to be a cougar. But Anna cannot help spying and taking interest in connecting with the teenager that lives with Jane and Alistair. You know what they say about things that don’t start well…
David… the hot basement dwelling tenant
Finally there is David, a mysterious man who lives in her basement. She is aware of his comings and goings but doesn’t seem to know any more about him than she does the people that she spies on all day and night.
This novel has been heralded as brilliant. Worthy of film magic even. I thought it was really very good but it took me a while to form that conclusion.
I spent the first half of the book feeling like I was inebriated. The second half is when things really started to get interesting and in the very last chapters was when things took off and picked up at a pace worth galloping along with.
I still have my doubts about Anna- she was such an unreliable narrator and witness that I find it hard to believe that the police would have taken her seriously. The action scene at the end was a bit clunky in my opinion. And I really did think she was too slow to catch on to a lot of things making it highly unlikely she would have survived. She really wasn’t a very good psych after all.
And for this novel to take place in NYC it sure is quiet enough to hear every single thing! This should have been set in some small town in Minnesota or something, then I could believe that people can hear and see all the happenings of their neighbors and live without alarm systems.
But the twists made it worth it. The ending ultimately left me satisfied. Is it worth the hype? Feel free to weigh in.
One last thing
The author of this book is shrouded in controversy so deep that I will address it in another blog post entirely.