The instant #1 New York Times bestseller (January 2019) everyone is talking about!
People Magazine's Book of the Week • Bookish's "Must-Read Books of Winter" • PopSugar's "Best Books of Winter" • Cosmopolitan's "2019 Books to Bring to Your Book Club" • Bookbub's "Biggest Books of Winter" • Refinery 29's "Best Books of January 2019" • Crime Reads' "January's Best Psychological Thrillers" • InStyle's "7 Books That You Should Resolve to Read This January" • HelloGiggles' "The 50 Most Anticipated Books of 2019" • USA Today's "5 New Books Not to Miss" • Marie Claire's "The Best Women’s Fiction of 2019 (So Far)" • Hypable's "Winter Releases You Can’t Afford to Miss"
"Hendricks and Pekkanen are at the top of their game...You won't see the final twist coming." People Magazine
“Beware strange psychologists…the authors know exactly how to play on their characters’ love of danger to bring them to the brink of disaster - and dare them to jump off.” New York Times Book Review
"Slickly twisty [with] gasp-worthy final twists...major league suspense." Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"For those who relished the creepy stalking in Hendricks and Pekkanen's The Wife Between Us, this unnerving tale will have them rethinking what secrets are safe to share and if moral and ethics really matter when protecting the ones you love." Library Journal (starred review)
"Masterfully escalates the suspense." Booklist (starred review)
Looking to earn some easy cash, Jessica Farris agrees to be a test subject in a psychological study about ethics and morality. But as the study moves from the exam room to the real world, the line between what is real and what is one of Dr. Shields’s experiments blurs.
Dr. Shields seems to know what Jess is thinking… and what she’s hiding.
Jessica’s behavior will not only be monitored, but manipulated.
Caught in a web of attraction, deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.
From the authors of the blockbuster bestseller The Wife Between Us, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, An Anonymous Girl will keep you riveted through the last shocking twist.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
GREER HENDRICKS is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller The Wife Between Us. Prior to becoming a novelist, she spent two decades as an editor at Simon & Schuster. She obtained her master's degree in journalism from Columbia University, and her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Allure, and Publishers Weekly. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children.
SARAH PEKKANEN is the internationally and USA Today bestselling author of eight previous solo novels and the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller The Wife Between Us. A former investigative journalist and award-winning feature writer, she has published work in The Washington Post, USA Today, and many others. She is the mother of three sons and lives just outside Washington, D.C.
Read an Excerpt
Friday, November 16
A lot of women want the world to see them a certain way. It's my job to create those transformations, one forty-five minute session at a time.
My clients seem different when I've finished helping them. They grow more confident, radiant. Happier, even.
But I can only offer a temporary fix. People invariably revert to their former selves.
True change requires more than the tools I wield.
* * *
It's twenty to six on a Friday evening. Rush hour. It's also when someone often wants to look like the best version of themselves, so I consistently block this time out of my personal schedule.
When the subway doors open at Astor Place, I'm the first one out, my right arm aching from the weight of my black makeup case as it always does by the end of a long day.
I swing my case directly behind me so it'll fit through the narrow passageway — it's my fifth trip through the turnstiles today alone, and my routine is automatic — then I hurry up the stairs.
When I reach the street, I dig into the pocket of my leather jacket and pull out my phone. I tap it to open my schedule, which is updated at least once a day by BeautyBuzz. I provide the hours I can work, and my appointments are texted to me.
My final booking today is near Eighth Street and University Place. It's for ninety minutes, which means it's a double — two clients. I have the address, names, and a contact phone number. But I have no idea who will be waiting for me when I knock on a door.
I don't fear strangers, though. I've learned more harm can come from familiar faces.
I memorize the exact location, then stride down the street, skirting the garbage that has spilled from a toppled bin. A shopkeeper pulls a security grate over his storefront, the loud metal rattling into place. A trio of students, backpacks slung over their shoulders, jostle each other playfully as I pass them.
I'm two blocks from my destination when my phone rings. Caller ID shows it's my mom.
I let it ring once as I stare at the little circular photo of my smiling mother.
I'll see her in five days, when I go home for Thanksgiving, I tell myself.
But I can't let it go.
Guilt is always the heaviest thing I carry.
"Hey, Mom. Everything okay?" I ask.
"Everything's fine, honey. Just checking in."
I can picture her in the kitchen in the suburban Philadelphia home where I grew up. She's stirring gravy on the stove — they eat early, and Friday's menu is always pot roast and mashed potatoes — then unscrewing the top on a bottle of Zinfandel in preparation for the single glass she indulges in on weekend nights.
There are yellow curtains dressing the small window above the sink, and a dish towel looped through the stove handle with the words Just roll with it superimposed over an image of a rolling pin. The flowered wallpaper is peeling at the seams and a dent marks the bottom of the fridge from where my father kicked it after the Eagles lost in the playoffs.
Dinner will be ready when my dad walks through the door from his job as an insurance salesman. My mother will greet him with a quick kiss. They will call my sister, Becky, to the table, and help her cut her meat.
"Becky zipped up her jacket this morning," my mother says. "Without any help."
Becky is twenty-two, six years younger than me.
"That's fantastic," I say.
Sometimes I wish I lived closer so I could help my parents. Other times, I'm ashamed at how grateful I am that I don't.
"Hey, can I call you back?" I continue. "I'm just running in to work."
"Oh, did you get hired for another show?"
I hesitate. Mom's voice is more animated now.
I can't tell her the truth, so I blurt out the words: "Yeah, it's just a little production. There probably won't even be much press about it. But the makeup is super elaborate, really unconventional."
"I'm really proud of you," my mom says. "I can't wait to hear all about it next week."
I feel like she wants to add something more, but even though I haven't quite reached my destination — a student housing complex at NYU — I end the call.
"Give Becky a kiss. I love you."
* * *
My rules for any job kick in even before I arrive.
I evaluate my clients the moment I see them — I notice eyebrows that would look better darkened, or a nose that needs shading to appear slimmer — but I know my customers are sizing me up, too.
The first rule: my unofficial uniform. I wear all black, which eliminates the need to coordinate a new outfit every morning. It also sends a message of subtle authority. I choose comfortable, machine-washable layers that will look as fresh at seven P.M. as they do at seven A.M.
Since personal space vanishes when you're doing someone's makeup, my nails are short and buffed, my breath is minty, and my curls are swept up in a low twist. I never deviate from this standard.
I rub Germ-X on my hands and pop an Altoid in my mouth before I ring the buzzer for Apartment 6D. I'm five minutes early. Another rule.
I take the elevator to the sixth floor, then follow the sound of loud music — Katy Perry's "Roar" — down the hallway and meet my clients. One is in a bathrobe, and the other wears a T-shirt and boxers. I can smell the evidence of their last beauty treatment — the chemicals used to highlight blond streaks into the hair of the girl named Mandy, and the nail varnish drying on the hands Taylor is waving through the air.
"Where are you going tonight?" I ask. A party will likely have stronger lighting than a club; a dinner date will require a subtle touch.
"Lit," Taylor says.
At my blank look, she adds: "It's in the Meatpacking District. Drake was just there last night."
"Cool," I say.
I wind through the items scattered across the floor — an umbrella, a crumpled gray sweater, a backpack — then move aside the Skinny Pop popcorn and half-empty cans of Red Bull on the low coffee table so I can set down my case. I unlatch it and the sides fold out like an accordion to reveal tray upon tray of makeup and brushes.
"What kind of look are we going for?"
Some makeup artists dive in, trying to cram as many clients as possible into a day. I take the extra time I've built into my schedule to ask a few questions. Just because one woman wants a smokey eye and a naked mouth doesn't mean another isn't envisioning a bold red lip and only a swipe of mascara. Investing in those early minutes saves me time on the backend.
But I also trust my instincts and observations. When these girls say they want a sexy, beachy look, I know they really want to resemble Gigi Hadid, who is on the cover of the magazine splayed across the love seat.
"So what are you majoring in?" I ask.
"Communications. We both want to go into PR." Mandy sounds bored, like I'm an annoying adult asking her what she wants to be when she grows up.
"Sounds interesting," I say as I pull a straight-back chair into the strongest light, directly under the ceiling fixture.
I start with Taylor. I have forty-five minutes to create the vision she wants to see in the mirror.
"You have amazing skin," I say. Another rule: Find a feature to compliment on every client. In Taylor's case, this isn't difficult.
"Thanks," she says, not lifting her gaze from her phone. She begins a running commentary on her Instagram feed: "Does anyone really want to see another picture of cupcakes?" "Jules and Brian are so in love, it's gross." "Inspirational sunset, got it ... glad you're having a rocking Friday night on your balcony."
As I work, the girls' chatter fades into background noise, like the drone of a hair dryer or city traffic. I lose myself in the strokes of different foundations I've applied to Taylor's jawline so I can match her skin tone flawlessly, and in the swirl of copper and sandy hues I blend on my hand to bring out the gold flecks in her eyes.
I'm brushing bronzer onto her cheeks when her cell phone rings.
Taylor stops tapping hearts and holds up her phone: "Private number. Should I get it?"
"Yes!" Mandy says. "It could be Justin."
Taylor wrinkles her nose. "Who answers their phone on a Friday night, though? He can leave a message."
A few moments later, she touches the speakerphone button and a man's voice fills the room:
"This is Ben Quick, Dr. Shields's assistant. I'm confirming your appointments this weekend, for tomorrow and Sunday from eight to ten A.M. The location again is Hunter Hall, Room 214. I'll meet you in the lobby and take you up."
Taylor rolls her eyes and I pull back my mascara wand.
"Can you keep your face still, please?" I ask.
"Sorry. Was I out of my mind, Mandy? I'm going to be way too hungover to get up early tomorrow."
"Just blow it off."
"Yeah. But it's five hundred bucks. That's, like, a couple sweaters from rag & bone."
These words break my concentration; five hundred is what I make for ten jobs.
"Gah. Forget it. I'm not going to set an alarm to go to some dumb questionnaire," Taylor says.
Must be nice, I think, looking at the sweater crumpled in the corner.
Then I can't help myself: "A questionnaire?"
Taylor shrugs. "Some psych professor needs students for a survey."
I wonder what sort of questions are on the survey. Maybe it's like a Myers-Briggs personality test.
I step back and study Taylor's face. She's classically pretty, with an enviable bone structure. She didn't need the full forty-five-minute treatment.
"Since you're going to be out late, I'll line your lips before I apply gloss," I say. "That way the color will last."
I pull out my favorite lip gloss with the BeautyBuzz logo on the tube and smooth it along Taylor's full lips. After I finish, Taylor gets up to go look in the bathroom mirror, trailed by Mandy. "Wow," I hear Taylor say. "She's really good. Let's take a selfie."
"I need my makeup first!"
I begin to put away the cosmetics I used for Taylor and consider what I will need for Mandy when I notice Taylor has left her phone on the chair.
My rocking Friday night will consist of walking my little mixed terrier, Leo, and washing the makeup out of my brushes — after I take the bus home to my tiny studio on the Lower East Side. I'm so wiped out that I'll probably be in bed before Taylor and Mandy order their first cocktails at the club.
I look down at the phone again.
Then I glance at the bathroom door. It's partly closed.
I bet Taylor won't even bother to return the call to cancel her appointment.
"I need to buy the highlighter she used," Taylor is saying.
Five hundred dollars would help a lot with my rent this month.
I already know my schedule for tomorrow. My first job doesn't begin until noon.
"I'm going to have her do my eyes kind of dramatic," Mandy says. "I wonder if she has false lashes with her."
Hunter Hall from eight to ten A.M. — I remember that part. But what was the name of the doctor and his assistant?
It's not even like I make a decision to do it; one second I'm staring at the phone and the next, it's in my hand. Less than a minute has passed; it hasn't locked out yet. Still, I need to look down to navigate to the voice mail screen, but that means taking my eyes off the bathroom door.
I jab at the screen to play the most recent message, then press the phone tightly to my ear.
The bathroom door moves and Mandy starts to walk out. I spin around, feeling my heartbeat erupt. I won't be able to replace the phone without her seeing me.
I can pretend it fell off the chair, I think wildly. I'll tell Taylor I just picked it up.
Dr. Shields's assistant ... eight to ten A.M. ...
"Should I make her try a darker lip color?"
Come on, I think, willing the message to play faster.
Hunter Hall, Room 214.
"Maybe," Mandy says.
I'll meet you in the lob —
I hang up and drop the phone back onto the chair just as Taylor takes her first step into the room.
Did she leave it faceup or facedown? But before there's time to try and remember, Taylor is beside me.
She stares down at her phone and my stomach clenches. I've messed up. Now I recall that she left it with the screen facing down on the chair. I put it back the wrong way.
I swallow hard, trying to think of an excuse.
"Hey," she says.
I drag my eyes up to meet hers.
"Love it. But can you try a darker lip gloss?"
She flops back onto the chair and I slowly exhale.
I re-do her lips twice — first making them berry, then reverting to the original shade, all the while steadying my right elbow with my left palm so my shaking fingers don't ruin the lines — and by the time I'm finished, my pulse has returned to normal.
When I leave the apartment with a distracted "Thank you" from the girls instead of a tip, my decision is confirmed.
I set the alarm on my phone for 7:15 A.M.
Saturday, November 17
The next morning, I review my plan carefully.
Sometimes an impulsive decision can change the course of your life.
I don't want that to happen again.
I wait outside Hunter Hall, peering in the direction of Taylor's apartment. It's cloudy and the air is thick and gray, so for a moment I mistake another young woman rushing in my direction for her. But it's just someone out for a jog. When it's five minutes past eight and it appears that Taylor is still asleep, I enter the lobby, where a guy in khakis and a blue button-down shirt is checking his watch.
"Sorry I'm late!" I call.
"Taylor?" he says. "I'm Ben Quick."
I'd correctly gambled on the assumption that Taylor wouldn't phone to cancel.
"Taylor is sick, so she asked me to come and do the questionnaire instead. I'm Jessica. Jessica Farris."
"Oh." Ben blinks. He looks me up and down, examining me more carefully.
I've traded my ankle boots for Converse high tops and slung a black nylon backpack over one shoulder. I figure it won't hurt if I look like a student.
"Can you hang on a second?" he finally says. "I need to check with Dr. Shields."
"Sure." I aim for the slightly bored tone Taylor used last night.
The worst thing that'll happen is he'll tell me I can't participate, I remind myself. No big deal; I'll just grab a bagel and take Leo for a long walk.
Ben steps aside and pulls out his cell phone. I want to listen to his side of the conversation, but his voice is muted.
Then he walks over to me. "How old are you?"
"Twenty-eight," I respond truthfully.
I sneak a glance at the entrance to make sure Taylor isn't going to saunter in at the last minute.
"You currently reside in New York?" Ben asks.
Ben has two more questions for me: "Where else have you lived? Anywhere outside the United States?"
I shake my head. "Just Pennsylvania. That's where I grew up."
"Okay," Ben says, putting his phone away. "Dr. Shields says you can participate in the study. First, I need to get your full name, address, and social security number. Can I see some ID?"
I shift my backpack into my hand and dig through it until I find my wallet, then I hand him my driver's license.
He snaps a picture, then takes down the rest of my information. "I can Venmo you the payment tomorrow at the conclusion of your session if you have an account."
"I do," I say. "Taylor told me it's five hundred dollars, right?"
He nods. "I'm going to text all this to Dr. Shields, then I'll take you upstairs to the room."
Could it possibly be this simple?CHAPTER 2
Saturday, November 17
You aren't the subject who was expected to show up this morning.
Still, you meet the demographic criteria of the study and the slot would otherwise be wasted, so my assistant Ben escorts you to Room 214. The testing space is large and rectangular, filled with windows along the eastern-facing side. Three rows of desks and chairs line the shiny linoleum floor. At the front of the room is a SMART Board, its screen blank. High on the back wall is an old-fashioned round clock. It could be any classroom in any college campus in any city.
Except for one thing: 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.
Ben explains that your instructions will appear on the computer that is being provided for your use. Then he closes the door.
The room is silent.
A laptop waits on a desk in the first row. It is already open. Your footsteps echo across the expanse of the floor as you walk toward it.
You ease into the seat, pulling it up to the desk. The metal leg of your chair grates against the linoleum.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "An Anonymous Girl"
Copyright © 2019 Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed." The plot for this story is incredibly original and is what initially piqued my interest in this book. But that's where it ends for me. I already know that I'll be in the minority with my opinions as this book will no doubt appeal to the masses. Told in two points of view, that of Dr Shields, the alluring, manipulative therapist conducting a survey on ethics and morality, and Jess, the unlucky participant that has drawn the attention of Dr Shields. Dr Shields finds Jess is most suitable for a personal agenda and begins the process of grooming and manipulating her. Its clear that the chapters narrated by Dr Shields are meant to have a creepy feel but the atmosphere falls flat. Jess is likeable enough, devastatingly flawed and a victim of her own secrets. I'm all for a slow burn but this book burns so slow it extinguished itself by the 40% mark and never really becomes engaging throughout. The synopsis for this book paints a picture of a story more psychologically frightening than is actually between the pages. The story is totally implausible, which I could forgive if only the narrative had been told in a more captivating way. There are no twists in this book, no gasping moments, no real sense of mystery. The ending is just blah and completely farfetched. I found the story to be pretty lackluster throughout. I would be remiss in not mentioning that clearly the authors are fans of fashion because nearly every scene includes a detailed description of what the characters are wearing down to the tiniest of details. These details lend nothing to the storyline and become laughable at points because of the absurdity of their inclusion in the book. I'm giving this one 2.5 ? rounded up for plot originality and the fact that I was able to finish the book despite it's failings. I was provided an ARC of this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Once I started this book, I could not put it down. It pulled me in with the twisted mind games that took place. The way it ended had me basically with my jaw dropped and shaking my head because I didn’t anticipate it. All I can say is that if you love a good psychological thriller, this book is for you! Happy Reading!
Couldn’t put this down. Every time something was revealed, and I thought I had it figured out - another twist! So good. 10/10 would recommend.
Wow! This is the second book that I've read by Greer Hendricks and Sara Pekkanen and I am hooked on this dynamic duo! Jessica is a single girl with a struggling career trying to make it in the big city. Jessica has a sister who needs special medical attention due to an accident as a child and Jessica feels responsible to support her family in taking care of her. When she not so accidentally becomes part of a study run by Dr. Shields, her life begins to change. The extra money is exactly what she needs. At first her involvement in the study and her relationship with Dr. Shields seems to be a positive influence on her but things quickly start to change? The chapters alternate between Jessica's point of view and Dr. Shields' notes. Being able to see the story from two points of view made the characters so much more interesting and believable. I could actually see myself in Jessica's shoes and understand why she makes the choices that she does. As I neared the end of the book, it wasn't all that shocking to me until the very end. I thought I had it all figured out, but it turned out that I didn't really know the characters all that well! Those unreliable narrators will get you every time! This book is a real thinker! I could say more but don't want to give it away.
“Welcome back, Subject 52.” I have read a lot of mystery and thriller/suspense novels over the years. I’ve read no less than 30 in the previous year. So it’s fair to say, I’m experienced in the genre. I am rarely surprised by a thriller book anymore. And while the ending isn’t the “WTF!” moment, I tend to look for in a mystery/thriller/suspense (whatever you want to call it). I found it to be fully satisfying. The authors’ left such a beautiful, deceptive breadcrumb trail to follow to find out what the hell is going on. An Anonymous Girl starts with Jessica Farris sneaking her way in to a psychological study on morality conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields. The questions become more invasive and the sessions transition from questions to manipulative outings. Jessica starts to wonder if she can trust anything in her life let alone the secretive doctor and what obsessions she’s withholding. My favorite part of An Anonymous Girl was the juxtaposition between the two narratives. Jessica is a 28 year old makeup artist struggling to survive in the city. Jessica is sweet, a little naïve, but she has some dark secrets in her past that leads to some self-destructive tendencies. Tendencies that lead her right in to the cold and calculating arms of Dr. Shields. Dr. Shield’s perspective reads like case notes on her study. But is anyone as they seem? Hardly ever. Full of unreliable narrators, a realistic story of how wrong an obsession can go, this book is perfectly paced to keep your eating up every word until you read the end. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for providing me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
I should probably start this review by saying that folks who need to like the characters in their books will be tempted to skip this one after reading some of the reviews. Neither of the main characters are particularly likeable. But they'll miss out on an excellent psychological thriller. These two main characters forge a "relationship" based on deception (on both their parts) and they certainly make some bad decisions based on bad assumptions. But really, aren't most psychological thrillers based on such? And over the course of the book we learn what carved each of them into the beings they've become. I liked this one a lot, there were surprising twists and turns and overall it was a satisfying read for me. I did listen to a good bit of it on audio, which added to the experience - and since it's told from two separate points of view, it helped me know quickly which character was "speaking". And while "The Wife Between Us" has been on my TBR list for a while, it's definitely moved way up that list.
An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen is a psychological suspense. I absolutely loved this book and couldn’t put it down. They did an amazing job and I can’t wait to read more from these authors in the future.
Well done ladies! It’s a page turner with relentless hair pin turns. Excellent character development of obsessive compulsive disorder and a psychopathic mind. Highly recommended. Enjoy!
I really enjoyed this book! I enjoyed the dual perspectives and while usually this is confusing to me or does not add much to the story…. this time it added that extra “spice”. Especially when you realized not all was what it seemed. Poor Subject 52 – handicapped by finances, a boring life and a devastating secret thinks maybe her luck has changed when she gets to be in a research project ran by an illustrious doctor, but it is not all that it seems. What happens next is the best cat and mouse read that I have experienced in a while!! This is an amazingly fast read – and I now would like to read “The Wife Between Us’ – solid 4 stars, for suspense, storyline and twisty endings.
Clever, creepy, and enthralling!
Because I loved the first book by this writing duo, when I saw they had another book coming, I had to have it. Thank you for the digital ARC for a honest review. The cover of the book is very attractive and would definitely draw my attention when I walked in the book store. Fair warning: this is one you won’t want to put down until you’ve finished every delicious morsel! So many twists & turns that you almost need to backtrack to be sure you just read the words right! ! I This was a true surprise, with the twists and turns!!
This book was good read. At first I thought it was a little slow but then things went wild. I couldn't stop reading it. The suspense and surprises were great. I thought some of it was a little creepy, but then something nice would happen. I never knew from page to page if I liked the different characters or if I didn't. Everything kept changing so fast. I received this ebook from NetGalley for an honest review.
This was a true psychological thriller that kept me hooked the entire book. I'm giving it 5 stars to emphasize what fun read it is. A woman somehow finds herself in a psychiatrist’s study because she needs the money. The study isn’t exactly what she thought it would be and she winds up out of her comfort zone but also in danger. She doesn’t know who she can trust anymore. I loved this story because I was unsure which character to trust! The characters are all developed and the author leaves just enough mystery that keeps you turning the pages to find out more about who really is telling the truth. I loved the twists and turns, my favorite books are ones like this one where you try but still can't predict the ending. A solid choice for any psychological thriller fan!
Couldn’t put it down.
This is my second book im reading from Greer Hendriks, & Sarah Pekkanen. The book started off very slow for me in the beginning. But man did it pick up and never slowed down. I enjoyed reading this book It is definitely a page turner I was literally on the edge of my seat reading this book. Great job to the authors.