Tuesday, 10 April 2018

The Woman at the Window, by A. J. Finn

Anna Fox is the woman at the window. A former successful child psychologist, she is a recluse, an Agoraphobic – terrified of open spaces; she stays in her house because she can’t bear to be outside, but that doesn’t stop her from being interested in the daily lives of her neighbours; after all, there is nothing else going on in her life except alcoholism, so she might as well spy through the zoom on her camera on those who live around her – she deserves some entertainment, surely!

So begins one of the most pageturning, unputdownable (truly!) thrillers I have read in a very long while. This is A. J. Finn’s first novel, but who would ever know that, for the writing is so polished and confident, the plot so heartstoppingly (is that a word? Well, it is now!) clever that one would think that he had a whole series of bestsellers behind him.

Anna is separated from her husband and daughter pending divorce proceedings, a horrifying situation she hopes may change – if only she can rid herself of her phobia, which manifested itself after a trauma she still can’t face: she still calls them every day, however, promising (as always) to stop drinking, to take her medications and (as always) to follow the advice of her psychiatrist.

Promises, promises. Anna is trapped in her house, a prisoner of her phobia and her addictions; nothing is going to change in her life – until new people move in across the street, a couple with a teenage boy who, in Anna’s opinion, looks as lonely as she feels. This feeling is eventually borne out by a surprise visit from her new young neighbour Ethan, bearing a little gift from his mother: a fragile association is formed – only to be shattered one night when Anna drunkenly spies on a killing, the murder of Ethan’s mother in their new house. To make a nightmare situation worse, after calling the emergency services Anna tries to leave her house to offer assistance, only to collapse on the street: when she revives it is to find that, according to the police, there has been no incident with the neighbours of any kind, no murder, and definitely no body. She Has Imagined The Whole Thing.

But Anna knows what she saw – doesn’t she? Even though she is shaken that, in her nightly call to her husband, he seems to disbelieve her, too – BUT. She knows what she saw. Proving it is something else entirely, especially when her calls to the police to reveal subsequent tampering with her phone and email are discounted as the ravings of a very sick woman.

Alfred Hitchcock would have loved this story; he would have made a great movie of it – and A. J. Finn purposely doffs his hat to him by giving Anna the solace of watching all of the master’s great 50’s black and white thrillers to pass her lonely time – while someone plots her murder.


Find this book in the library

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