* This review does not contain any spoilers *
Publishing Date: January 8th, 2019
Point of View: Dual first person
Pages: 416 (US paperback)
Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.
When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave.
Question #1: Could you tell a lie without feeling guilt?
But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking… and what she’s hiding.
Question #2: Have you ever deeply hurt someone you care about?
As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.
Question #3: Should a punishment always fit the crime?
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HOW I WENT INTO IT
I read and enjoyed Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen’s first book The Wife Between us. Since hearing their second book centered around a psychological study, I was instantly intrigued. I’m currently in my Masters running some psychological research, so it seemed right up my alley. I heard some mixed things about it so I went into it hesitant, but hopeful.
The setting and premise for the plot were great. This might be partly because of the fact that I’m actively running psychological research right now, but I was really excited about this being centered around a study on morality. I haven’t seen any other books like it and I felt like it was the perfect setting for a thriller. Especially since in real life, mainly in the earlier days of psychological research, some studies really took a dark turn and were… not so ethical. I must admit the idea of what COULD go down in this setting was the main thing keeping me going while reading.
The dual perspective worked well. This book is told mostly from the perspective of the woman participating in the study, Jessica. However, it’s interspersed with some short chapters from the point of view of the researcher. I think this worked really well, giving us a sort of ominous look into how the researcher viewed Jessica.
Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen write well together. For one it’s completely unnoticeable that it’s written by two authors. They also write their thrillers well. Though I was disappointed by the plot of this one, the writing was still great. It says a lot that I managed to finish it even though I didn’t like where it was going. I will definitely still pick up anything these authors publish.
THE (SEMI) NEGATIVES
Though the setting and plot were set up to be great, I was massively disappointed. Maybe my expectations were unreasonably high in regards to the actual study because I know more about the subject, but I think I would have also been disappointed if I knew nothing. Instead of setting up this elaborate study that tested the participants’ morals, similar to something like the real-life Milgram experiments, the authors created a study that felt so lackluster to me. It’s basically a questionnaire and then stuff moves on completely outside of the study itself. It was just not what I was hoping for at all.
The actual reveal, the thing that was really happening, was so unimpressive to me. I’m not going to say much, because this is a spoiler-free review after all, but when I found out what this was actually all about I felt so unmoved by it. It seemed so expected, almost eye roll-worthy.
It dragged on too long. There were a lot of unnecessary scenes in my opinion. A bunch of the same things happening, the same kinds of worries from the main character. I was kind of impatient for things to move along and to find out what was happening. Never a great sign for a mystery/thriller.
Like many people are saying, I believe this second book by these authors was not as good as their first. I was disappointed by where the plot went and felt that the most interesting thing, the study on morality, was nothing special. There were some redeeming qualities and I like the authors, so I’ll continue to read their books in the future.
RECOMMENDING IT TO YOU
I probably wouldn’t recommend this thriller in general, but it was enjoyable enough that I’d say to still give it try it if it sounds good to you. Maybe you will like it if you don’t go in expecting too much from the study itself.
Have you read this book?
If so, how do you feel about it?
If not, do you want to?
Thanks for reading and I hope you have a wonderful day!