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  • Jeff Somers 5:00 pm on 2018/01/04 Permalink
    Tags: a.j. finn, the woman in the window, ,   

    Why The Woman in The Window Is 2018’s First Must-Read Thriller 

    Twisty thrillers are easy to read, but they sure ain’t easy to write well—and when a debut thriller is the subject of serious buzz, with publishers competing fiercely for the chance to release it and discussions of who’s going to star in the film version long before the book has even hit the presses, the challenge is even greater, as readers come primed for shocking surprises and big reveals.

    That’s the precise scenario A.J. Finn’s debut, The Woman in the Window, finds itself in. The dark, twisty story of an agoraphobe who spies on her neighborhood, Rear Window-style, succeeds in fooling even the most expectant reader. In fact, it just might be the most surprising, crowd-pleasing thriller since Gone Girl. Here’s why.

    The Setup

    Anna Fox is a dedicated fan of old movies—especially thrillers and noir suspense tales. She’s also very self-consciously in the same position as Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window: compromised by an affliction—in her case, a severe case of agoraphobia—she spends much of her time sitting at the window that overlooks the park behind her house, using a camera lens to zoom in on her neighbors and watch their lives unfold.

    Finn smartly puts a button on this theme—Anna references old movies constantly, and dialogue from them shows up as background noise in key scenes, adding a dash of postmodern meta-fiction to a classic thriller setup: after she spies a new family’s arrival on the block (and does some light cyberstalking to learn they are the Russells: Alistair, Jane, and son Ethan), Anna answers her doorbell and meets Jane, who is friendly, cheerful, and vivacious. Later, as Anna drunkenly spies on the trio through their window, she witnesses a shocking crime…or does she?

    The Unreliable Narrator

    Anna calls the police in the midst of an agoraphobic panic attack so powerful she wakes in the hospital, and we begin to learn the depth of Anna’s problems. She drinks far too much, endlessly downing Merlot. She’s sloppy with the many medications she’s been prescribed by her full-time therapist—psychotropics with serious side-effects, including hallucinations.

    The Tailspin

    This all sounds crazy, and Finn allows Anna be perfectly aware of her own unreliable status. The Russells bitterly accuse her of stalking, and indeed, Anna’s behavior takes on the scent of the unhinged. As she continues to self-medicate with alcohol and poorly-managed prescriptions, her credibility is steadily destroyed, leading to a truly devastating and emotional reveal you won’t see coming, which convinces even Anna that she might be imagining things.

    The Deconstruction

    And that’s when the book’s hair-raising end game begins. It’s impossible to discuss the final act without spoiling it; needless to say, it piles on the reveals and reversals with dizzying speed. Finn handles this delirious series of plot turns so skillfully it’s hard to believe this is his debut. There are at least three moments the book could have ended on a satisfying note—only for Finn to throw in another swerve, with almost breathless glee.

    This is one of those thrillers that was born to be a film. The suffocating sense of tension, the meticulously explored, confined setting, the impressive control over plot and reveal—someday very soon The Woman in the Window will be hitting the big screen, and you’ll want to be in the know before it does. This is a crackling thriller that’ll have you gasping out loud. Pour yourself a glass of a good Merlot (skip the pills, though) and settle in for an all-nighter.

    The Woman in the Window is on B&N bookshelves now.

    The post Why The Woman in The Window Is 2018’s First Must-Read Thriller appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2018/01/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , the woman in the window, ,   

    The Best Thrillers of January 2018 

    A new year brings a new crop of unputdownable thrillers. Here are 10 books to keep you riveted in January.

    The Woman in the Window, by A. Finn
    One of the most anticipated thrillers of the year is a real humdinger—a Hitchcockian meta-twister told from the point-of-view of agoraphobic, extremely unreliable child psychologist Anna Fox. Fox hasn’t left her apartment in 11 months, spending her time playing games, chatting with other agoraphobics on the internet, and spying on her neighborhood in self-conscious, Rear Window-style. It’s quickly apparent the reader can’t trust anything Anna says—so when she first becomes obsessed with a family across the park and then witnesses what she is certain is a murder, it’s no surprise that no one believes her. As the twists and revelations pile up, it becomes clear that Anna’s past and her mental state are just as important as what really happened in the house across the park.

    City of Endless Night, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
    FBI Pendergrast is back, investigating the corpse of a young woman who’s been decapitated and left in Queens. She’s quickly identified as the missing daughter of billionaire Anton Ozmian, but when more headless bodies turn up, things get messy fast, as the victims show no discernible pattern—aside from their missing heads. Pendergrast and old ally Lt. Cmdr. Vincent D’Agosta come under increasing pressure from the mayor’s office, Ozmian, and plenty of less-savory power brokers as their investigation runs into dead end after dead end. Slowly, Pendergrast realizes the killer has come to New York City for a very specific reason. As public panic mounts, his epiphany doesn’t translate into an easy solution, and this might be one time Agent Pendergrast’s unique mind fails him.

    Need to Know, by Karen Cleveland
    Vivian Miller is a devoted mother, a loving wife, and a CIA analyst dedicated to investigating potential sleeper cells working within the U.S. Her relationship with her husband is rock-solid, and her love for her special-needs child is fierce, so when she stumbles on a photo of her husband on the computer of a Russian agent, she panics and deletes it—but when she confronts her husband, he doesn’t even try to deny anything, confessing that he’s been working for the Russians for more than two decades. Vivian is forced to reconsider every aspect of her relationship under the possibility that she was chosen by her husband as cover, all while worrying over the implications her discovery has for her—and her children. Cleveland was a former CIA analyst herself, lending serious verisimilitude to the details.

    Unbound, by Stuart Woods
    The latest Stone Barrington story focuses on former CIA operative Teddy Faye, reinvented as Hollywood mogul Billy Barnett. When Barnett’s wife is killed by a drunk driver, Billy gets in his car and starts driving, finding his way to the film set of Dax Baxter, a rival filmmaker with a shady reputation, whose wife was the driver in the fatal accident. Baxter used his connections to keep his wife out of jail. Billy leverages his CIA experience to infiltrate Baxter’s film set under an alias, and begins to sabotage the production by way of revenge. When Baxter connects the dots, he brings in Russian thugs to solve his problem, but Billy’s got plenty of experience dealing with these types. A game of brutal cat-and-mouse ensues, spinning up all the best aspects of the Barrington universe.

    The Wife Between Us, by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pakkanen
    Take liberal doses of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train and mix them up in wholly unexpected ways, and you have this crackling new thriller from former book editors Hendricks and Pakkanen. Vanessa and Richard got divorced after a series of failed fertility treatments left them childless, but now charismatic, controlling Richard has married a younger version of Vanessa—or so it seems to her. Nellie, the new fiancée, is a bright-eyed schoolteacher uncertain she’s ready to leave her fun lifestyle for the suburbs. And Richard’s secretive destination wedding brings up haunting memories of a traumatic event in her past. Meanwhile, Vanessa unravels, drinking and pushing herself to the brink of unemployment as she becomes increasing unreliable and increasingly obsessed with Nellie. To say this setup doesn’t go where you might think is the understatement of the year.

    Operator Down, by Brad Taylor
    Taylor’s 12th Pike Logan novel opens in Tel Aviv, where Pike and his fellow Taskforce agents Jennifer and Knuckles are shadowing an arms dealer suspected of selling nuclear trigger components. When they stumble on intel that indicates their old friends Aaron Bergman and Shoshanna are being targeted for elimination, and that Aaron has been captured, the decision to go rescue him seems obvious—until more intelligence comes in warning of a coup attempt in the fragile African democracy of Lesotho, and Pike and team are ordered to intervene. Faced with the choice of disobeying orders or saving their friend, Pike and company team up with the delightfully bloodthirsty Shoshanna to break the rules one more time in hopes of saving their colleague.

    The Take, by Christopher Reich

    Simon Riske owns a high-end auto repair chop in London—when he’s not working as a freelance spy, called upon by the CIA and the like to do things even they can’t touch. When Riske is hired to track down gangster Tino Coluzzi, he’s more than happy to do so, because Coluzzi betrayed him back in his own criminal past, letting Riske rot in jail. Coluzzi masterminded the daring robbery of a Saudi prince, but one of the things he stole was a letter the Russian government will kill to get back, and the CIA will kill to get their hands on. Riske uses all of his knowledge of the criminal underworld, the finer things in life, and of spycraft to get to work getting revenge and saving the world—not necessarily in that order.

    Light It Up, by Nick Petrie
    Peter Ash returns as a member of his old friend Henry Nygaard’s Heavy Metal Protection Team, escorting a truckload of medical marijuana to Denver shops and then guarding the money on the way back. On a deserted mountain road, the truck gets hijacked, and the violent encounter leaves Peter as the sole survivor—and a suspect for the police.Meanwhile, he wonders if the thieves were after something more than just money. Gathering his old friends Lewis and June, Peter sets out to find out who was behind the job, get the money back—and get bloody, remorseless revenge for his dead friends. Few fictional characters can deal out death and violence as effectively as Ash and company—but in the end, it’s Ash alone against an array of forces, both man-made and natural.

    The Chalk Man, by C.J. Tudor
    Eddie Adams is a young teen in the beautiful town of Anderbury in the U.K. in the 1980s, hanging out with his best friends, using a code of chalked figures to leave messages for each other. A series of grisly experiences and dark pranks sour the boys’ adolescence and haunt them into adulthood, including a disturbing experience where a stranger leads the boys to see a dismembered young girl in the woods. The man suspected of the killing commits suicide before justice can be done, but decades later, one of the Eddie’s friends, Mickey, returns and tells him he knows the identity of the real killer, and all the friends receive letters containing one of their old chalk figures. Then, Eddie’s friends begin dying, and he realizes it’s time to solve all the mysteries of his past if he’s going to survive into his future.

    Cutting Edge, by Ward Larsen
    Trey DeBolt is a rescue swimmer for the Coast Guard in Alaska. During a difficult rescue, his helicopter goes down—and he wakes up in cabin by the sea in Maine. He’s got a nasty scar on the back of his head and no memory of how he got there; his nurse informs him that he’s been declared dead even as a Coast Guard investigator in Alaska finds evidence he’s still alive. His nurse tells him that he’s undergone surgery that has gifted him with incredible abilities. Just as he’s figuring out he’s part of a secretive government experiment, his nurse is killed by a team of professional assassins—assassins meant for him. A sudden vision showing him information he couldn’t possibly know saves his life—and suddenly, Trey is on the run, trying to figure out just what’s happened to him, and how to control it, before it’s too late.

    The post The Best Thrillers of January 2018 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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