I’m a sucker for a thriller I can devour in an afternoon, and from the back cover, this looked promising. With quotes of praise from Stephen King, Gillian Flynn and Val McDermid, my expectations were high.
The opening chapter immediately intrigued. Developing in a manner similar to Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’, as the protagonist spies on her neighbours, the reader is unsettled from the outset and left with a lot of questions about the woman’s background – Finn drops a few hints about the main character’s husband and daughter, but leaves them vague, which instantly draws us into the story.
The pace of this novel is just right. There’s enough detail to create a strong sense of character and place, but not too much that it becomes doughy. By dividing the chapters by date, plot progression feels natural, especially as the main character, Anna Fox, doesn’t leave her house, leaving little in the way of events to demarcate chapters. As her world narrows to a growing obsession with her new neighbours, so does the reader’s experience, building a sense of claustrophobia which adds pace and narrows the viewpoint, sucking us deeper into her experience. Perhaps it’s because her world is so narrow that the more peripheral characters are so well-observed and well-realised.
Obviously as the main character is house-bound, there’s no real action for large parts of her day, but by drip-feeding us fragmented flashbacks, Finn keeps the reader hooked. These flashbacks are meshed with the unfolding events in the present, leading to multiple reveals which keeps us gripped as we plough through, desperate to know the full story.
In addition to her claustrophobia and the mysterious tragedy which precipitated it, Anna is also an alcoholic on very strong medication, so her memories and perceptions are confused, further building a sense of mystery. When she makes friends with the Russells, it becomes clear that all isn’t what it seems – but is it just her paranoia? And in Anna’s fragmented mind, what is reality?
I read this in one sitting – I simply couldn’t put it down, especially towards the end as events drew to a climactic reveal, which absolutely stunned me – before things took an even more shocking turn. If you’re looking for a masterful thriller that’ll keep you entertained while you snuggle under the blankets on a Winter afternoon, this is an excellent choice.