MINM Review: The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

This character-driven, Hitchcockian suspense novel is a book one can truly curl up with, and get lost in. The author of The Woman in the Window intentionally takes the time to establish his characters, his modern-day, New York City in autumn and winter setting, and, at the same time, creates a steady build-up of tension and menace. The novel is, mostly, unputdownable, as it presents the reader with two central mysteries: first, what plunged the main character into her current state, and second, did Anna really witness a crime in the town house across the park, and if so, who exactly was involved? Mr. Finn's language is lavish and lyrical; some may find it a bit overwrought (do any Americans still use the word "parlor"?). Anna does spend much of her time watching her beloved black and white noir and Hitchcock films, and Mr. Finn juxtaposes dialogue and actions from these films with the book's plot, to great effect.

At the conclusion of the excellent audio book, narrator Ann Marie Lee asks A. J. Finn about the process of writing the novel. Mr. Finn describes a bit about his own battle with severe depression, and how his personal experience informed his agoraphobic character, Anna Fox, a compelling, complicated woman who has lost the will to live life outside of her own home. While some reviewers have called this a "popcorn thriller" - and it is very twisty and loads of fun - this reviewer also found herself ruminating about some existential questions pertaining to the internet. In particular, that while the conveniences of the "world wide web", such as online shopping, downloading films and books, and any number of forums and chat groups can be a lifesaver, and provide a sense of community to those with serious physical and psychological disabilities and illnesses, are too many of us, like Anna, becoming more and more isolated in this modern, hi-def, 3-D world where anything and everything is a mere click away? Are we beginning to live, perhaps, too much of our lives online, and on social media, from the confines of our own homes?

Is The Woman in the Window a highly entertaining and atmospheric psychological suspense debut? Absolutely! But it can also be thought-provoking. Kudos to A. J. Finn for "opening a window" on mental health, the importance of support and treatment, and the possibility, often, of healing.

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn book cover image.jpg

"It isn't paranoia if it's really happening....."

Best for Crime Fiction Readers:

  • Who enjoy mystery and crime fiction with short chapters that propel the narrative forward, and keep the reader quickly turning the pages.

  • Who appreciate mystery and crime fiction with a strong sense of place and season. Anyone who is familiar with New York City's charms will find it hard not to feel sentimental for the city. Make no mistake though, this is the Manhattan of the well-to-do, not the financially struggling.

  • Who enjoy reading crime fiction with one or more unreliable narrators.

  • Who appreciate crime fiction that emphasizes the psychology of characters.

  • Who appreciate crime fiction featuring amateur, "armchair" sleuths.

  • Who enjoy crime fiction with lots of twists in the tale.

  • Cinephiles of classic Hitchcock, and noir films will love the references. Fun Fact: My name (Laura) was inspired by the 1944 Gene Tierney film of the same name, and in particular, by its haunting score, composed by David Raksin.

Violence: Mild-to-Moderate

Profanity: Mild-to-Moderate

Sexual Content: Mild

Explicit Language: Mild

Animal Cruelty: Mild

Thrilling Action: Moderate

Red Herrings: Moderate

Twists and Turns: High

Suspense: Moderate

Plot Development: Moderate

Character Development: Moderate-to-High

Pages: 427 (Hardcover)

Publisher's Blurb: 

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

MINM Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars

I revisited the Hitchcock film "Rear Window" - clearly an inspiration for the author - while reading this novel, and plan to enjoy others. Are you a fan of classic, black and white, noir films? If so, which do you recommend?

Mystery in Minutes would love to hear from you in the comments below!