Thoughts on The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn and My Lifelong Mystery Obsession
Well, hello there, it’s been awhile!
I read The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn a little over a month ago and sat down to write the review right after I closed the book. I wrote about half and then let it sit until now.
In all, I enjoyed the book, it was a nice way to spend an afternoon. There are many books of this ilk, and I’ve read quite a few of them. We’ve seen similar themes, archetypes, and characters in books like Sharp Objects and Gone Girl (confession, I never read Gone Girl, I saw the movie and decided that the twist was ruined for me, so I read Sharp Objects instead on recommendation from a friend) by Gillian Flynn, The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena, The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley, and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins just to name a few. While some of these books are notably better written than others, and some do have compelling characters, the similarities are undeniable. Often there is an unreliable narrator and almost always the main character is a drunk, constantly makes bad decisions about who she sleeps with, doubts her sanity, and is generally unlikeable, but still begs for us to believe in her and root for her to solve the mystery. Anna wasn’t nearly as dislikable as most of the women in this type of book, even with the mistakes she makes, which is interesting, considering that A.J. Finn is a man and the writers of those other books are women. Hmmm…I don’t know what to think about that, but it is interesting to note.
The book follows Anna, a former child psychologist, who has been separated from her husband and child and is now living a reclusive life in her New York brownstone. She spends her time watching old movies and watching the neighborhood through her windows and her Nikon, all while drinking copious amounts of wine. While looking into the windows of the new neighbors, she witnesses what she thinks is a horrible crime happening to the wife. She reports it, and is met with confusion and speculation as to her mental state. According to the neighbors and police, no crime has been committed, the wife is alive and well…or is she? Anna becomes obsessed with the family and finding out the truth, even as she begins to doubt her own sanity.
I have heard some complaints about the amount of time spent discussing old movies and Anna’s obsession with them, but that didn’t bother me at all. As some who loves classic cinema, I enjoyed all of the references and I thought it was an important device in getting the reader into Anna’s state of mind. Is it an homage to Hitchcock’s Rear Window? Of course it is, but it was well done and I’m not mad at it. Talking about the plot is difficult without spoiling anything. I started this book by listening to the audio version because I had several hours of driving ahead of me and I love me some Audible, but I have to say, I cannot recommend the audio version. The reader just did not get the tone for me. The voice she used, especially for Anna, the main character, was off putting and made her sound like she was in her seventies, imagine my surprise when I realized that she was only in her late thirties. I found myself liking the book much more when I switched to reading it.
As a formerly avid mystery reader (yes, my reading goes through genre phases) and lifelong true crime enthusiast, I tend to have a hard time being surprised when reading mysteries and thrillers nowadays. I still love them, but I usually see the twists coming a mile away and can guess whodunit fairly early on. That being said, this book did give me a few surprises, and I applaud it for that. If you like a good mystery, I recommend it.
As a child, the books that really got me into reading were a mystery series, so I will always have a soft stop for them. Side note, if you have a kid or know a kid who reads, I recommend the Mandie Books, great kid sized mysteries. In junior high, I graduated to reading all of the Nancy Drew Case Files. In high school, I read all every Mary Higgins Clark book published at that point. I had my James Patterson, John Grisham, and Anne Perry phases. The Anne Perry books lead to a fascination with Victorian England, which led to the gangs of New York and more books in the vein of Victoria Thompson. I’ll still buy the newest Mary Higgins Clark at the airport before getting on a plane. Am I going to be surprised by it? Probably not. Am I going to enjoy it? Undoubtably so.
I originally rated it 4 starts when I finished it, but changed to 3.5 upon reflection.
I knew there was something off about Ethan from the beginning. I also decided that Jane Russell wasn’t Jane Russell she must have been either Ethan’s real mom or Allistair’s mistress. I definitely read more into the fact that the Russell’s were from Boston and David was from Boston, which oddly, Anna never put together, red herring there.
How obvious was it that she had agoraphobia and that the husband and daughter were dead? Seriously. I was surprised as to the circumstances of the accident though, that was awful, no wonder she had so much guilt.