Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hitchcock in Harlem a Fun, but Forgettable Female-Centered Thriller

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hitchcock in Harlem a Fun, but Forgettable Female-Centered Thriller

Article excerpt

It's that unenviable time of the year: Christmas is over, and now we face what feels like an interminable wheel of snow, melt and snow again.

This is the perfect time for escapist entertainment - particularly if you're snowed in and need to know that somewhere, someone is worse off than you. "The Woman in the Window," a psychological thriller from first-time novelist A.J. Finn, is perfect for exactly that: easy to lose yourself in, quick and fun to read, even if it's not particularly groundbreaking.(A.J. Finn is the pen name of Daniel Mallory, a former book publishing executive in New York.)

Dr. Anna Fox, formerly a renowned child psychologist, is a shell of her former self. Estranged from her husband and young daughter, Anna has become an agoraphobe who mixes alcohol and prescription medication to numb herself. Isolated from most of the outside world, she spends her time watching old movies, drinking and watching her neighbors through her camera.

When a new family, the Russells, move to Anna's gentrified Harlem street, she is surprised to find herself befriending them. Because this is a thriller, though, it soon becomes evident that the Russells aren't quite what they seem, which contributes to Anna's downward spiral of drinking and hysteria.

Can she trust her own eyes, or has her painful past led her to imagine terrible things?

Fans of Paula Hawkins' 2015 "The Girl on the Train" and its subsequent movie version will be right at home with "Woman in the Window." While the genre's prerequisite twists are different in both, a lot of the beats of the earlier book are echoed in Mr. Finn's work here: an unreliable, alcoholic narrator; obsession with the "happy" lives of others; skeptical police and abandonment issues.

None of this is new territory, but Mr. Finn's obvious relish in the twists and turns he creates is refreshing.

There's also a hefty dose of cinematic influence, and the author makes connections explicit by interspersing the book's action with lines from movies such as 1944's "Gaslight" and 1943's "Shadow of a Doubt" - a decision that feels more and more self-congratulatory as the book progresses. …

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