Alice O’Keeffe, Books Editor at The Bookseller, said: “Our shortlists this year took the judges from Georgian London to the Second World War to contemporary New York. There are books from exciting fresh voices at the very start of their career, contrasted with books from with well-established brand authors at the top of their game. These are the books that sum up 2018 but which, we think, will be read for years to come.”
Rear Window meets Girl on the Train, it has all of the New York City snooping of the former and the unreliable narration of the latter.
“The Woman in the Window”, a highly successful début novel by the pseudonymous A. J. Finn (thirty-eight-year-old Daniel Mallory, a former editor at Morrow), is a superior example of a subset of recent thrillers featuring “unreliable” female protagonists who, despite their considerable handicaps—which may involve alcoholism, drug addiction, paranoia, and even psychosis—manage to persevere and solve mysteries where others have failed.
The story is written totally from the inside of the character: we see and feel and hear the world just as Anna experiences it, feeling her sense of helplessness as her condition worsens, and her fears grow. When she’s forced to brave the outside world, even for a few steps before collapsing, we feel her desperation, every moment brought to painful life. There are echoes of Rear Window and Vertigo, but Finn plots his own course with a sure tread, and a tender heart.
When not watching Hitchcock films (Finn is refreshingly open about the source of his inspiration), Anna uses the zoom lens of her camera to spy on the comfortable life of her neighbours, the Russells. But – as is de rigueur for this subgenre – Anna observes something horrific and is confronted with the inevitable question: will anyone believe her? Finn does not attempt to conceal the shopworn elements, but confronts them head-on and rings some bracing changes. “A J Finn” is really Dan Mallory, a US publisher who knows just what makes popular thrillers work.