AJ Finn has hit it out of the park with his debut psychological thriller The Woman in the Window, the first book of 2018 Auntie M is reviewing and giving her “Highly Recommended” status.

This one’s a winner, whether you’re a fan of Hitchcock movies or not. Finn is, and that influence is seen in the highly cinematic feel of the book, which has been optioned by Fox 2000 Studios.

Dr. Anna Fox is the narrator, a child psychologist who has been inside her home for the past eleven months suffering from severe agoraphobia and depression. Her reclusive life includes visits from a physical therapist, Bina, and her psychiatrist. She speaks to her husband, Ed, and daughter, Olivia, who are not living with her. She has her groceries delivered, doesn’t shower often enough, and has a basement tenant to do chores if she needs them. And she watches her neighbors.

She also plays online chess, but tries to feel useful by running a chat room for other agoraphobics, using her skills as a therapist to help them, even as she can’t help herself. It’s the one place she feels a modicum of positive output, even as her drinking gets out of control.

When a new family move in nearby, the Russells seem unremarkable; father, mother, awkward teenaged son who seems emotional. Then the mother, Jane, comes to visit Anna, and in their brief time together, they laugh and drink and play chess. Anna jokes about the actress, Jane Russell, and feels that she might just have a new friend.

It’s a hollow victory when she subsequently sees Jane stumbling through the house with a blade sticking out of her chest. But no one in the NYPD, her therapist, Bina, Ed–no one believes she saw what she knows she saw: Jane being murdered.

Or did she? Has her preoccupation with old movies, especially those of the Hitchcock thriller variety, combined with too much wine and the multiple psychotropic meds she’s on, caused Anna to hallucinate the events? What is real and what has she imagined?

There are references to classic movies, but Finn manages to make this story his own, with a riveting tale that crackles with tension as the story advances. The whoosh sound you’ll be hearing is you turning the pages as you devour this gripping, dark novel. As Auntie M started out, it’s highly recommended.