Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen proved themselves to be a powerhouse duo with their debut bestseller, The Wife Between Us. However, it is their new psychological suspense novel, An Anonymous Girl, which will cement their standing as must-read authors for a legion of crime fiction fans.
Like The Wife Between Us, An Anonymous Girl is a story about the relationship dynamics between two very different women. First there is Jessica Farris, the younger city dweller who struggles in almost all areas of her life – her finances, her family relationships, and her romance prospects. At the other end of the spectrum is Dr. Lydia Shields, a successful psychiatrist conducting some innovative research on the workings of the human mind.
It is this research that brings these two women into the same orbit. Jess needs money to help her parents support her developmentally-disabled sister back home, so when she discovers an opportunity to get paid for answering a few questions as part of Dr. Shields’ morality study, she would do just about anything to be a participant.
For her part, Dr. Shields finds herself immediately intrigued by Jess’s survey answers and feels the need to dig deeper into this woman’s psyche. Just why she feels this connection with Jess is not immediately clear, which is what sets readers on a path that will take many unexpected detours before the tense climax of this gripping novel.
Hendricks and Pekkanen have structured their novel in such a way as to both maintain the needed suspense and to draw the reader deeper in to the core story. Throughout the book, chapters alternate between two points of view. Jessica’s chapters are first person and proceed in standard chronological order, from just before she meets Dr. Shields through to her final encounter with this complex woman. Every other chapter is written from Dr. Shields perspective. The interesting thing here is that these chapters are written in second person, which serves to make the reader feel almost directly involved in the action and thus culpable at every turn. Second person narration is less common, but here allows these authors to manipulate the reader in ways that more common points of view would not have been able to accomplish.
In crafting both of these women, the authors have created a formidable duo. It would have been easy to make one of these women gullible, while the other was just an out-right bitch, but that is not the path taken. Each possesses both strengths and weaknesses that make them uniquely situated to fall into this situation, casting spells over each other. Readers, whose tendency it can often be to choose sides, will find this a harder prospect here – at least in the early sections of the book. The more that is revealed about both women, the more reader’s allegiances will shift, sometimes in unexpected ways.
An Anonymous Girl is a fast-paced read that will please any fan of domestic suspense. Like most books in this sub-genre, there is some reliance on tropes, but these two authors infuse enough originality into their storyline to make it stand out among a crowded arena. Whatever process they have found to write these novels together is working very well indeed and readers, like myself, will be anxiously awaiting their next exploration into the the minds of modern women.
From the Booking Desk: I will be at the Howard County Library Event to hear these authors speak, this Saturday.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.