3.5 out of 5 stars
Look (and listen): I’m not going to spoil anything. This book is a totally twisty page-turner, incredibly easy to read but thoroughly un-put-down-able. From page one, The Woman in the Window goes all-in for its big ending. Which I hated.
Dr. Anna Fox is a former child psychologist afflicted with crippling agoraphobia: she cannot go outside, cannot leave her house. She compensates by watching life on her gentrified Harlem block through her windows, and her high-zoom camera lens. Then she sees a murder. Or does she?
If you’ve read/seen The Girl on the Train, you’ve basically met Anna. Hell, you’ve basically read this book. Sure the twist might twist a different way, and the exploration of Anna’s agoraphobia adds an interesting, fresh component. Yet the bones are the same: late-30s white lady has it all (read: a husband), loses said “all”, and immediately melts into The Triumverate: alcoholic, unreliable narrator, and nosy neighbor extraordinaire.
Let’s be real: both of these leading ladies are stalkers. They are scary in a way that screams escalation, and begs for a true crime podcast. Hence the compulsive readability. They’re also delicately sad, and thus sympathetic: a testament to strong writing. If you knew them, you’d be calling “Intervention” or Doctor Phil to get them some help stat. Neither character has such people in her life, so we spin along their matching downward spirals.
These devices work for both books (and many of them for Gone Girl), but they’re not better here. The Woman in the Window doesn’t add to the genre. It simply succeeds in staying upright in the shadows of those other books.
And then we come to that ending. WELP. I guessed the twist in advance, without committing to the theory, and was disappointed to be right. But I do give book credit for sprinting toward it at breakneck speed. Since I can say nothing else without spoilers, once you’ve read it, let’s talk.
NOW GET THIS: Author AJ Finn’s real name is Dan Mallory, and he might just be the real-life sociopathic, narcissistic, pathological liar of this genre’s dreams! He apparently used the alias because too many people already knew of his repeated deceptions and false personas! Then he became a best-selling millionaire author! Just write an tell-all autobiography, Dan, don’t waste your time with fiction. You should read the exhaustive New Yorker story here, or this blessedly condensed version from The Guardian. Now that is the ending I didn’t see coming!