“An Anonymous Girl” by Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen is a psychological thriller that follows Jessica Farris, a make-up artist Readers immediately get to know Jessica. She is dedicated and harried. She wants to be organized, and is driven by rules and more rules. Most of all, she is in desperate need of money. She stumbles upon an opportunity to make quick money by participating in a research project.
“Seeking women aged 18 to 32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality conducted by a preeminent NYC psychiatrist. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed. Call for more details.”
Thus, Jessica’s unusual and frightening journey begins. In a casual, conversation-style first-person narrative, she talks to friends; she talks to herself; and she talks to readers. She shares her past, her present, her regrets, her dreams, her guilt, and her fears. She finds that an impulsive decision can change the course of one’s life. Many things that were ordinary in the past are somehow no longer run of the mill activities and people; now that she in in the survey group, now that she is “Subject 52.”
The study begins as a computer-driven question and answer session about ethics and morality as described. Of course, Jessica has already lied to get into this study, so her situation is compromised at the start. Money is money, but how far will she go to get that money? Lies pile up one on top of the other, and the study of “ethics and morality” mutates into something very different and very sinister.
The construction of the narrative itself contributes to the menacing tone of impending doom. The account switches from Jessica’s first person present tense narrative to another narrative, this one a second person present tense as if the narrator is speaking directly to Jessica.
“You are the only person here. This venue has been selected because there is little to distract you, facilitating your ability to concentrate on the task ahead.”
The tone throughout is tense and foreboding. Without giving away information, this book filled with deception, treachery, and subterfuge. The plot is complex and develops over time, one puzzle piece at time. And, like a puzzle, the pieces eventually fall into place but not without missteps, variations, and unexpected turns. I received a copy of “An Anonymous Girl” from Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen, St Martin’s Press, and NetGalley. It is the quintessential psychological thriller, and one that readers will find hard to put down