Technology has turned us all into involuntary voyeurs. There are surveillance cameras everywhere, reality shows, overexposure on social media… It’s hard not to take a peek at other people’s lives from time to time. This may explain the success of the 2018 psychological thriller The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn. It deals with themes such as voyeurism (enjoyment from watching others) and agoraphobia (the fear of leaving home), while referencing the classic Alfred Hitchcock film Rear Window. An instant hit, Finn’s novel inspired a 2021 movie produced by Netflix. Here’s a list with 10 other titles for those who enjoyed The Woman in the Window and are looking (no pun intended) for similar chills.
1. Saving April, by Sarah A. Denzil
This book is so similar to The Woman in the Window that The New York Times suggested it could be a case of plagiarism. Let’s see: Saving April is about Hannah, a young woman who suffers from major anxiety. She rarely leaves her suburban home and lives as a recluse. When a new family moves into the house across the street, Hannah begins to eavesdrop on their intimacy. But soon she suspects that their teenage daughter, April, is in danger. The book is narrated by two different characters: Hannah and Laura, April’s mother. The reader never knows who to trust. While the editor of The Woman in the Window has smothered suspicions of plagiarism, both books are about family lies and traumatized protagonists. They even have a similar plot twist at the end!
2. The Woman in Apartment 49, by Ross Armstrong
Published in late 2016, more than a year before The Woman in the Window, The Woman in Apartment 49 by Ross Armstrong has a lot in common with Finn’s bestseller. Lily and her husband Aiden move into a new apartment in London. The old building across the street is about to be demolished but still has some tenants. To pass the time, Lily starts spying on them. First a teenager disappears. Then an elderly neighbor turns up dead. Lily suspects that someone in the building is a murderer. But there’s a problem: our narrator is psychologically unstable. Armstrong plays with the reader’s expectations, taking some time to clarify whether Lily is trustworthy or just imagining things. The answers will only come in the nail biting suspense of the last one hundred pages.
3. The Cry of the Owl, by Patricia Highsmith
Author of classics such as The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith is considered a master of suspense. The Cry of the Owl was published in the 1960s and is one of her lesser-known titles. However, thanks to the number of twists and disturbing moments, it has what it takes to attract a new generation of fans today. It chronicles the double life of Robert Forrester, a seemingly ordinary man who has faced a nasty divorce and moved to the countryside. One night on his way home, he sees a pretty young woman through the window of her house. Forrester becomes completely obsessed, and spying on the neighbor becomes an unhealthy hobby. As is common in Highsmith’s work, not everything is what it seems and the roles are soon reversed.
4. Someone is Watching, by Joy Fielding
Another amazing story about voyeurism and agoraphobia, Someone is Watching is about Bailey, a detective working for a Miami law firm. After being attacked, raped, and nearly killed during routine surveillance, she becomes a traumatized prisoner of her own house. As a good detective, Bailey still uses her binoculars to watch the neighbors. But soon the agoraphobic protagonist realizes that one of those neighbors is also spying on her–and perhaps not with the best intentions. Someone is Watching is a page-turner impossible to put down after the first few chapters.
5. Sweet Damage, by Rebecca James
Remember the heroine’s tenant in The Woman in the Window? Well, this gripping 2013 thriller tells a story similar to his. Sweet Damage is about Tim, a young chef who needs a new apartment after breaking up with his girlfriend. He soon finds the opportunity of a lifetime to rent a room in a 19th-century mansion. The condition is to ensure the well-being of the owner, young Anna. She suffers from agoraphobia since the tragic death of her parents and hasn’t left home for six months. Of course, the bargain will soon turn out to be a trap, with scary things happening in the house. Filled with twists and turns, Sweet Damage leaves the reader torn between rooting for Tim and Anna’s romance or suspecting the heiress’ intentions.
6. Her Every Fear, by Peter Swanson
Her Every Fear is about Kate, an English art student suffering panic attacks after a traumatic episode involving an ex-boyfriend. A distant cousin proposes that they switch apartments to spend a season in another environment. After moving to his home in the United States, Kate discovers that one of the neighbors has been murdered. The culprit could be either her own cousin or the charming tenant she ends up getting involved with. Swanson avoids absurd plot twists and reveals quickly who the killer is. The story invests more time in tension than in the regular whodunit-style mystery.
7. How Lucky, by Will Leitch
An interesting variation on the theme that’s less focused on suspense and more on drama. The protagonist is Daniel, a young guy who suffers from a rare medical condition known as SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy). Paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, he works from home as an online customer service representative. One day, Daniel believes he has witnessed the possible kidnapping of a college coed. Suspecting the police won’t believe his story, he decides to overcome his physical limitations and investigate the mystery. Leitch manages to balance the doses of thrills and adventure in How Lucky. And what a lovely, heartbreaking hero young Daniel is!
8. We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson
Another classic from the 1960s. This one was written by the same author of the still popular The Haunting of Hill House. There’s a sinister mystery involving the Blackwoods, a family of wealthy landowners. Several years ago, the parents died of poisoning. One of the daughters, Constance, was the main suspect and developed the fear of leaving home. Now she lives with her sister Merricat (who is the story’s narrator) and an invalid uncle. An unknown cousin returns one day and tries to convince Constance to overcome her fears. Jackson drew on her own drama to write the story (she also suffered from agoraphobia). The result is a chilling story that doesn’t resort to the supernatural to terrify the reader.
9. Window Watcher, by Matt Converse
Written by an author specialized in horror stories for the LGBTQ+ audience, Window Watcher is a gay homage to Hitchcock’s film Rear Window. It tells the story of Heston, a San Francisco author with a vivid imagination. He begins to spy on the private life of the handsome neighbor across the street. But after witnessing some strange facts, Heston suspects that the guy may be a serial killer targeting gay people. The protagonist’s wannabe boyfriend decides to help him investigate the mystery. Window Watcher is a short novel full of thrills and scares that readers will devour at once.
10. Silence is a Sense, by Layla AlAmmar
Let’s end the list with a drama exploring the central situation of The Woman in the Window: a protagonist who decides to self-isolate in her own house and silently observe the neighbors. Only this time, agoraphobia has nothing to do with it. Written by Layla AlAmmar, who grew up in Kuwait, Silence is a Sense is about a young Muslim Syrian refugee living in a small apartment in the UK. Traumatized by the war, she becomes a voyeur incapable of relating to others. From the safety of her own window, the protagonist observes the daily dramas of her neighbors. It’s a moving story about a refugee facing another culture. The book also deals with taboos such as immigration, isolation, and hate crimes. It’s a tough read, but very necessary.