By: Meghan Mceniry Brosnan
Following the recent scrutiny of author Dan Mallory (Pen-name A.J. Finn) and the upcoming film starring Amy Adams, The Woman In The Window seems ripe for a review.
It was, after all, the biggest selling fiction title of 2018.
Anna Fox, an agoraphobic woman, lives alone in New York City, trapped in her home with bottles of wine, black and white movies, and last, but certainly not least, the zoom lens she uses to magnify the minute details of her neighbours’ lives.
Estranged from her husband and daughter Anna immediately fixated on the picture-esque family that have just moved in nearby.
And in true but predictable fashion, nothing is as it seems.
When she hears a scream from her neighbours apartment, Anna witnesses Jane Russell stagger into view with a knife in her chest.
However, when the police investigate, they introduce her to Alistair Russell and his wife Jane – a woman Anna had never seen before.
How could this be?
Is Anna being gaslighted?
Taking inspiration from Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Paula Hawkins’ The Girl On The Train, The Woman In The Window is a smart twist on the trope of the unreliable narrator.
You never know if you can trust her, making the first-person narrative grow increasingly claustrophobic as the plot slowly unfolds.
Beneath the heavy plot, there’s a layer of cultural enjoyment for lovers of the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Part of the fun is playing spot-the-reference.
Anna references Rear Window multiple times throughout.
Anna watches Vertigo, so keep an eye out for doubled blondes.
Anna watches Gaslight, so who’s trying to convince her she’s crazy?
Her murdered neighbour is even named Jane Russell – a reference to the actress who starred alongside Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
The pop-culture heavy references game never quite approaches the unbearable levels of Ready Player One but are employed effectively enough to act as easter eggs for fans of pop culture at large, and as such, having a working knowledge of specific plot devices in mystery fiction will help here.
Fans of the genre will likely spot the big twists before they are revealed.
You can binge read this book, but you don’t necessarily do it to find out what happens next – You already know what happens next.
The movie already exists.
More satisfying is the subplot of Anna battling her agoraphobia.
The mystery behind her trauma emerges in one horrifying set-piece.
Again, you’ll see the reveal coming from miles away, but it makes for a far more chilling tale than any of the stock scares that serve as the main narrative thrust.
It’s not mind-blowing, nor is it life-changing, but The Woman In The Window is page-turning goodness.