The Woman in the Window: a good mystery, framed with story elements that let it down

The Woman in the Window Book review

What is this about?: So Anna is agoraphobic, alcoholic, on pills and has a bit of a habit of peering into her neighbours’ windows. That’s when she sees a murder.

What else is this about?: Grief and mental health to a small extent, but mostly murder and Anna wondering if she really is losing her mind.

Blurb: What did she see?

It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.

But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

Stars: 3/5

The Woman in the Window is another ambitious mystery, that I recced here. HArper Collins Australia, thank you for the ARC!

Anna is agoraphobic, roaming her big, empty house with wine in one hand and pills in the other. Sometimes literally, but neither is very far from her within this story. Given she’s house bound, and interacts with very few people, there’s only so many ways the author can show her as an unreliable narrator, and to me at least, that’s the reason for the pills and wine.

Anna is, sometimes it felt like, for pages on end, without any one to talk to. She counsels people online on a forum for agoraphobics. She has a physical therapist and therapist who sees every week, but they are insubstantial in this story, just characters to break up the monotony of having Anna drink and take pills — and watch old movies.

Along with all this, she watches her outside world through her big windows, namely the neighbours around her. That’s how she meets one of them and then sees that woman murdered through her big windows. The woman showed her kindness for one afternoon, and I think they could have been friends.

But here’s where things get good: no one believes that Anna saw this woman murdered. For very good reasons, which highlighted just how good Finn is at plotting this mystery.

This part of the book I enjoyed — the mystery kept me guessing, and through the haze of wine and pills, I think I would have liked to have seen Anna investigate this story, and most importantly, talk and interact more with the suspects. 

The resolution of the mystery is a total WOAH moment.

But the beauty of this resolution, this OHMYGOD moment is lost I feel because when Finn draws everything together, it comes almost out of the blue because of the minimal interaction Anna has with relevant characters. And that’s why I said I would have liked Anna to have interacted with certain characters more, begin to see them for what they were before the ending.

That’s also why I think the agoraphobic storyline restricts this book immensely, and robs Anna of being a memorable character. There’s only so much pill popping and wine drinking and movie watching I can take. The secondary characters too are deliciously deceptive, with such potential it was sad to see one of them just appear and disappear and never interact with Anna further.

Not to mention pacing. 

Along with the mystery of the murdered woman, Finn uses this book to let readers in on to how Anna became agoraphobic. The problem is when the actual mystery starts 158 pages in, pacing is an issue for me. Not to mention, a side plot with a tenant that goes nowhere.

There’s a reason for the focus on her past, and though it provides a moment of WOAH, it is but a moment that changes your perception of Anna for a bit, but then the main storyline has to move on. Had this reveal come early and followed Anna through the book, I think it might’ve framed her better an unreliable narrator.

Thinking about it, this book frustrates me because had Anna been going to people’s houses, conversing more with suspects and finding clues and whatever else, this would have been a higher-rated read for me.

Perhaps it would have been more conventional, but I think Finn’s characters and conclusion have more potential than this storyline’s agoraphobic storyline allowed them to show.

That said, I am intrigued to see how Finn’s next book goes. 


  • I have been curious about this one but I have to admit, it sounds like Girl on the Train except she’s now in an apartment window. Glad there were some things about this you enjoyed.

    • Verushka says:

      Does it? I haven’t read that one, but I’m not entirely surprised in that regard. There’s a group of unreliable narrator books that tend to follow a pattern I guess. I really hoped we’d passed that by now.

  • Angela says:

    I agree, it does sound a bit like Girl on the Train, with an unreliable narrator seeing something she wasn’t meant to see. I can see how the agoraphobia factor really limited the book; it’s tough that the author didn’t see that as well.

  • Greg says:

    It does sound interesting in spite of the flaws, but I can definitely see where those would be issues. I like the idea of her seeing a murder through her window! Alas pill popping and wine swilling can be a problem. 🙂

    • Verushka says:

      It seems like without anyone else to converse with, that’s all there is to her. There is a twist to her, but to get there you have to go through the pages of wine and pills, and by that point, I was over it, I guess. She is in some ways very one dimensional and the author couldn’t quite make her interesting on her own.

  • This is a new one to me and while it does sound like a good one, I think the issues you mentioned would bother me too. I do like the unreliable narrators, they seem to add the mystery but it sounds like it took too long to establish that she was one. At least there were other parts that you were still able to enjoy overall.

  • I agree with Barb. This book does sound very reminiscent of Girl on the Train except that she’s now in an apartment window. The storyline does sound interesting, but I’m pretty sure I would have had all of the same issues that you did, especially with the fact that the actual mystery didn’t start until you were so far into the book. Thanks for your honest review!

    • Verushka says:

      I think there are elements of this that are so good, and work well, but yeah, the other side of the coin, so to speak, weighed down this story. It was sooo frustrating in that respect because I could see the goodness, and wanted more and instead it fizzled.

  • As a somewhat nosy person, I understand the inclination to glance inside someone’s window…but this exact sort of scenario is what keeps me from doing it. You never know what craziness you might see! It’s too bad that Anna wasn’t more involved with the other characters, but otherwise this sounds like a pretty enjoyable read.

  • AngelErin says:

    Man, I am so torn. The synopsis for this one sounds great, but based off your review the pacing would drive me bananas. I don’t know, maybe I’ll get curious enough one day to try it. Great review though! 😀 😀

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