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The Woman in the Window by A.J.Finn




The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn
(William Morrow, 427 pages)

03/01/18



 Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn called it astounding, Fox started production on the movie before the book was released, and it was already published in 35 other languages when The Woman in the Window landed in U.S. bookstores in January.

It’s been quite a year for debut author A.J. Finn, or, as the world now knows, a heartthrob wordsmith named Dan Mallory. 
This time last year, the 38-year-old Mallory was editing the work of others as a senior vice president at William Morrow while, on his off time, tinkering with a novel he was writing about an agoraphobic woman in New York who believes she has witnessed a crime.
When he submitted it to publishers in the fall, Mallory used a pseudonym because, as he told one interviewer, “It would have been embarrassing for me had the book not been acquired, which was what I expected.”
It was acquired all right, setting all sorts of records for a first novel. Having won the lottery of publishing, Mallory soon quit his day job and commenced work on his second novel.
Universal acclaim should invite skepticism, but in this case, you can believe the hype. The Woman in the Window is a taut, engrossing thriller worth the investment of time. And you’ll need time, not only because the book exceeds 400 pages, but also because you’ll want to read it again when you’re done to connect the dots you missed the first time.
Anna Fox is a child psychologist who narrates her own story, which mostly takes place over three weeks within her graciously appointed five-level Manhattan brownstone. Like the author, she is 38: “Wrinkles like spokes around my eyes. A slur of dark hair, tigered here and there with gray, loose about my shoulders; stubble in the scoop of my armpit. My belly has gone slack. Dimples stipple my thighs. Skin almost luridly pale, veins flowing violet within my arms and leg.”
Although Fox is chatty about some things — for instance, the black-and-white movies she spends her time watching — she is reticent about why a tenant occupies the basement of her home while her husband and 8-year-old daughter live elsewhere. Or why her only visitors are a physical therapist and a psychiatrist, and the occasional deliverer of groceries, wine and medication.
Woman can not live on Hitchcock movies alone, so to pass the time Fox also plays online chess, counsels other agoraphobics, drinks heavily and watches her neighbors through the zoom lens of her camera, “swollen with stolen images,” since no one in the neighborhood draws their curtains or blinds.
“I think of everyone and everything I’ve caught on camera: the neighbors, the strangers, the kisses, the crises, the chewed nails, the dropped change, the strides, the stumbles. … The young Motts, in the dying days of their marriage, bellowing at each other from opposite ends of their Valentine-red parlor, a vase in ruins on the floor between them.”
A sympathetic character, she’s not, and if Finn/Mallory weren’t so skillful a writer, we’d leave Anna to her sloshy voyeurism and frequent phone chats with the MIA husband and daughter. 
Except — we really need to know why the husband and daughter aren’t there, and why Anna, who once had a thriving practice working with troubled children, is now psychologically hobbled herself, taking double doses of the drugs that are meant to help her, drinking alcohol when she knows it’s not allowed with the medicine.
Then we have to know what’s happening with the family across the street — the mother, father and teen that she has been watching, and accidentally (the teen and the mother, anyway) befriended. And when Anna witnesses something shocking on her sloshy watch, we’re in for the finish, knowing that we can’t trust Anna to have seen what she tells everyone she has seen.
This book will break you, in a good way, and make it impossible to mull any trouble of your own since there will come a point when you’re too absorbed in Anna’s troubles to worry about your own petty life. There are several plot twists — only one of which I kind of saw coming — and the dialogue and construction are seamless, effortless, as if the author had worked all his life in publishing or something. 
The title may make you yawn, but The Woman in the Window will keep you awake. Whatever historic amount of cash Mallory pocketed for this gripping story, it was a payout deserved. A 
— Jennifer Graham 





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