Thrusting you straight into the action from the outset, A.J Finns early 2018 debut novel is set in the haunting claustrophobic lofty New York Home of Dr. Anna Fox.
Living alone and trapped in her own memories and despair, Anna hasn’t left her home in 10 months. With only her Pinot noir and her faithful cat Punch to keep her company, Anna becomes entranced by the Russell Family who have recently moved to the building opposite her.
She speaks daily to her estranged husband and daughter and logs onto the forum she hosts to help other agoraphobics on their journey to recovery . When she’s not doing this she is watching old movies and falling asleep with a concoction of pain killers and sleeping tablets, all washed down with a few tumblers of vino.
So when she witnesses an incident through the view finder of her Nikon camera whilst perusing the goings on of the surrounding buildings, Anna is forced outside to confront what she believes she saw. But when she is found outside her home by the police, so her problems ensue.
Now an unreliable witness to a crime that may or may not have happened Anna questions her own sanity and the motives of her neighbours; people she thought she knew and understood having being studying them from afar.
Many a thriller claims to keep you turning every page until the last breathless crusendo but rarely delivers. This book boasts very little but delivers on ever level.
Rarely do I pick up a book and not put it down until I have turned the final page but this psychological spine tingling thriller had me gripped.
Each fully rounded character comes alive and the sense of place is palpable, albeit it mainly the 4 story town house, surrounding greens and buildings.
The narrative flashes back and fourth in time so we come to understand the devestation that has become Anna’s life and Finn writes tenderly from the perspective of a wife and a mother drawing the reader under the spell that they are reading the words of a female writer.
For film buffs this novel boasts references to classic movies and pays homage to the authors love of film. It’s no wonder it’s already been snapped up by film producers and will soon be made into a Hollywood blockbuster.
I was speaking to a male journalist recently who said he was reading this book, thouroughly enjoying it and that it was obviously written by a woman. This book is written by a man and one who works in publishing and had studied the market closely before submitting under an alias.
It’s a sad fact that the thriller market is saturated by novels featuring vulnerable women with brains addled by amnesia, drugs or booze, ( S.J Watson, Before I Go To Sleep and Paula Hawkins, Girl on the train – to name a few) falling victim to crimes. This novel perpetuates that cycle of abuse which we know to be inflicted upon women on a daily basis all across the globe.
Thankfully organisations such as the newly formed Staunch Book Prize, offering publication to a thriller writer where no woman is directly harmed in a way so that particular crime carries the entire story, is a welcome relief to what has become the norm in modern writing.
Althoigh A.J Finn has done what many have done before him and cast cliche vulnerable, endangered and undermined females, he has woven a sleek and intricate plot that keeps you gripped until the final reveal.
This book has a twist that sends you scurrying to past chapters to see where you missed the clues.