Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen’s sophomore novel entered my life in a perfectly timed moment. It’s not often that I find myself absolutely jonesing for a thriller, but my Book of the Month box containing An Anonymous Girl was delivered precisely in the middle of a craving. After enthusiastically devouring their acclaimed first co-authored venture, The Wife Between Us, I had some high expectations. I had a feeling that this dynamic author duo would deliver an unforgettable ride of suspense and drama, and oh boy, did they.
An Anonymous Girl – Sarah Pekkanen & Greer Hendricks (Pub Date: 1/8/2019)
Jessica is a hustling make-up artist trying to hold it down in the (very expensive) streets of Manhattan. Strapped for cash, she agrees to participate in a psychiatric experiment for the elegant and enigmatic Dr. Shields. She is paid extremely well in exchange for answering some probing questions about morality and completing some odd tasks, so she doesn’t immediately question anything as the job gets stranger and stranger. Before she can escape, she is caught in a massive web of lies, jealousy, and manipulation, with a really vicious spider watching her every move.
- The forethought and details of this book are intense. Every puzzle piece is intricately carved to fit just right. Pekkanen and Hendricks are such clever and thorough storytellers; they really don’t miss a beat in delivering an elaborate (but not outlandish) plot.
- Both The Wife Between Us and An Anonymous Girl run the risk of falling into the unreasonably-rich-married-couple-have-no-real-problems-except-that-they-lie-all-the-time category. But somehow, both are incredibly grounded. An Anonymous Girl manages to tell the story of an incredibly deceitful and irrationally privileged couple, but Jessica makes for one heck of an anchoring character. A novel that would probably blend in among the white noise of these genre trends stands the heck out because it is told from the view of a reliable, realistic narrator.
- My biggest pet peeve with thrillers is when they make it a point to withhold information and use it to tease the reader. “I’m a main character and I have a deeply troubled past that I’m not going to tell you about until it’s useful as a plot twist in 200 pages.” Useless. My motto is that if everyone in the story knows everything and the reader is the only one left out, it’s a cheap thrill. An Anonymous Girl is NOT a cheap thrill. The villain of the story (who I shan’t mention by name here), holds all of the cards, and yeah, there’s a plethora of information we get our hands on very slowly, but Jessica is left as in the dark as readers are. The piecing out of information is super successful and suspenseful, even if the authors make us wait for it.
- The characters are so impressively complete, with backstories and traits and tics that we can pick up even if the authors don’t explicitly point them out. For instance, Jessica is never described as being hella-observant, but she clearly exhibits an investigative and observant drive throughout the early portion of the book. Later, when she starts piecing the truth together, it’s really not outlandish that her guesses end up on point, because she’s clearly been a smart and aware person from the get-go. The book is a psychological thriller, and the authors have really torn into the psyche of their characters, which really just drives the whole theme home.
- The book is one big guessing game, and Jessica, at the center of it, is so full of self-doubt, trepidation, and confusion. These feelings are so palpable to the reader that it was a genuinely thrilling ride.
- The Wife Between Us was so full of whiplash plot twists, all the way until the conclusion of the novel, so I think I was possibly conditioned to expect one final world-shattering twist in An Anonymous Girl. The third portion of the book is really satisfying and a great conclusion, but I’ll admit it was a smidge calm and predictable, as the truth was doled out to us in its final chunks.
I read this 371-page book in two days, and if id had it my way, I probably would’ve just swallowed it in a single sitting. Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen have truly done it again. As a reader who can be skeptical about the thriller genre, I will readily and enthusiastically volunteer as tribute to devour any and every suspenseful and plot-twist-packed book they (hopefully) continue to publish.