Suspense fiction

The Woman in the Window

Author: 
Finn, A. J.

[A] twisty, powerful Hitchcockian thriller about an agoraphobic woman who believes she witnessed a crime in a neighboring house.

It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening …

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times … and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

Twisty and powerful, ingenious and moving, The Woman in the Window is a smart, sophisticated novel of psychological suspense that recalls the best of Hitchcock. (From the publisher.)

Discussion Guide: 
  • What was your initial impression of Anna? Did it change as the book went on?
  • Why do you think Anna was so obsessed with observing her neighbors? How did it make her feel more connected to the outside world?
  • Do you know anyone who has experienced agoraphobia?
  • Did you believe her husband and daughter were still alive or were you surprised when it was revealed they passed away?
  • Anna serves as an unreliable narrator. Did you believe that she did see a murder or did you wonder if it was in her head/she made it up?
  • Did you suspect Ethan at any point?
  • There have a been a number of thrillers/suspense stories with an unreliable narrator suffering from a drinking problem. Why do you think the authors make that choice? How does drinking impact the story they’re telling?
  • What did you think about the many film references Finn included in the story? Several times, what’s happening on screen is almost happening in Anna’s world as well. Have you seen any of those films?
  • What changes do you think they’ll make in the movie version of this book? Will you go see it?
  • What did you think of the ending? Were you satisfied or did it leave you wanting more?
  • The story focused on grief, addiction, anxiety disorder and trusting one’s instinct. What are some other themes you picked up on?

Into the Water

Author: 
Hawkins, Paula

Paula Hawkin's addictive new novel of psychological suspense.

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate.

They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.
 
Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother's sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she'd never return.
 
With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.
 
Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath. (From the publisher.)

Discussion Guide: 

1. Family relationships, particularly the bond between sisters, feature heavily in Into the Water. How do you think Lena is affected by Nel and Jules’s estrangement? How does it influence her friendship with Katie?

2. Jules and Nel’s estrangement hinges on a misremembering of an event in their past. Are there any childhood or teenage memories you have that are no longer as clear when you look back now? How has this novel made you view your past, and the way it reflects upon your present?

3. Within the novel there are several inappropriate relationships — for example, Katie and Mark; Sean and Nel; Helen and Patrick. How does the depiction of the relationships between these characters affect your interpretation of their behavior and actions?

4. "Beckford is not a suicide spot. Beckford is a place to get rid of troublesome women." Discuss the gender dynamic in Into the Water. How much power does each of the women in the novel hold? What are the different types of power they hold?

5. Into the Water contains several different voices and perspectives. How did this structure affect your reading of the novel?

6. How do the epigraphs relate to the novel? Does one speak to you more than another? If so, why?

7. The structure of the novel means that we get tremendous insight into our suspects throughout. Who did you originally think was responsible for Nel’s death? Did your opinion change as the plot developed?

8. Was there a particular character you identified with? Was there a particular moment you found moving, surprising, or terrifying?

9. Many of the characters in the novel are grieving — some from more recent, raw losses and others from historic ones. How sympathetic were you to these characters? Was there a character you felt more sympathy for than another? Does their grief excuse their behavior?

10. Nickie Sage represents the legacy of witches that haunts the novel. Do you believe she sees things others cannot? Do you agree with the way she behaves?
(Questions from the author's website.)

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