Total Star Rating: 2 Stars
I can always appreciate a work of literature that pays homage to something I actually care about, which in this case is classical crime films like the popular titles by the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock. The book moves in a similar pace, and creates a nice parallel to whatever movie the main character is watching compared to what they’re experiencing in real life. It also pays homage to the more recent popular thriller trope of a woman in something (a window, a train, cabin 10, being gone, etc) and the question of whether or not she’s actually sane. They’re the narrator and they’re unreliable and part of the thrill is their murky memory of past events or what’s happening right then in the story, and alcohol is usually involved too.
The book itself is nothing too groundbreaking or revolutionary, but is still an entertaining read nonetheless. It’s pretty impressive for a debut novel from the author; if it’s their first published book, it’s only going to be uphill for them! For me, it was a little slow towards the middle and felt like it really dragged, maybe because it brought too much of the main characters outside problems into play and I just couldn’t connect with it all that much, but I can appreciate the subtle buildup the author produced by the hazy memories and the play with sanity with our MC as they continue to drink and watch some film noir in their apartment, absolutely terrified to go outside due to their extreme case of agoraphobia.
It’s also impressive to note that this book is already being turned into a movie that will star Amy Adams, who seems to be the go-to for these woman-centered thrillers. She was in Sharp Objects, an HBO mini-series based on the suspense/thriller novel by Gillian Flynn, so I guess it makes sense for her to be in the flick for this title as well. She’s a great actress and I know she’ll do an amazing job.
What It’s About:
The story is about a woman named Anna Foxx. She lives by herself in a New York townhouse, and suffers from an extreme case of agoraphobia, which is the the fear of places or situations that cause stress, fear, embarrassment and/or helplessness. She’s going through her normal routine of being a reclusive psychologist, while also spying on her neighbors through the lens of her Nikon when a family moves in across the parkway. Soon she meets the mother and son on separate occasions and they seem like any friendly, normal family.
Anna likes them immediately, and continues her spying of the neighbors like she normally does.
Until something happens.
Something happens that Anna wasn’t supposed to see…
Suddenly, Anna’s world begins to unravel and she loses stability of what’s real and what’s all in her head, all the while tryin to figure out exactly what happened in that house across the street.
What I Liked:
- The Twisty Climax! Like any good mystery should have, there is a surprise twist that widens your eyes, and when the big reveal occurs, it reveals all the little clues that you missed, but also makes you appreciate the author’s cleverness of conspicuously sliding them in under your nose. After reading it, I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t see it coming.
- Mental Illness Used To Create Conflict! One aspect of a good mystery is a believable way to isolate either the main character, or the whole cast so they can’t just walk away, and I liked that the author chose to go the agoraphobic way. It made it feel more currently relevant because there is a bigger understanding for mental health issues in society today. It was well done to add to the story because Anna is basically trapped within her own home; she has nowhere to go because she is absolutely terrified to even step foot outside, which gives such a great inner conflict.
What I Didn’t Like:
- It Was Just So Lackluster…The story was just a really slow burn for me, to be honest. Yes, the set up is interesting enough, but the book really died down through the midpoint up until the climax. I think it also drags when a big realization happens at about the 75% mark into the book, the reveal behind the cause of her mental state, and you find yourself wondering if Anna is as reliable of a narrator as you thought. She does drink a large amount of wine while being heavily medicated, watches a lot of classic Hitchcock-era movies while drunk on said wine…what if she really is actually crazy?
It wasn’t a bad read at all; I enjoyed it enough I guess, but it just wasn’t anything especially brilliant, spectacular or breathtaking. It is a pretty decent debut for the author, and it did raise some questions to make the reader think: what goes on behind closed doors? Are people really who they say they are? Do we really see what happens around us? What’s real and what is just a figment of our mind playing tricks on us? It also offers commentary on families and the lengths they will go to perpetuate that picture-perfect image, when in reality things couldn’t be any more screwed up beneath the surface.
Thanks for Reading!
— Nick Goodsell