A Manhattan makeup artist signs up for a study about morality and ethics that takes her deep into the danger zone.
Using the addictive split narration gambit deployed in their debut, Hendricks and Pekkanen (The Wife Between Us, 2018) tell another tense tale of two female characters. Jessica is struggling to get by in New York City with a job doing makeup sessions in clients' homes. When she overhears that some ditzy college girls she's working on have signed up to take a psychological survey for $500, she breaks into their voicemail while they're out of the room to get the information, then pretends to be one of them when she arrives at the appointment. (Why she didn't just ask them about it we'll never know.) Ironically, the survey contains questions like "Could you tell a lie without feeling guilt?" and "Describe a time in your life when you cheated." Turn the page, and now we're watching Jessica from the other side, from the perspective of the immediately rather creepy researcher, Dr. Lydia Shields, who is already aware of her subject's deception. "This test can free you, Subject 52," she is thinking. "Surrender to it." We quickly learn the survey is just a front for recruiting a susceptible young woman to act as bait in some nefarious schemes Dr. Shields has planned...schemes which may have already led to the death of a woman known as Subject 5. Almost nothing about this story or its characters is believable or makes much sense, from Jessica's naiveté to Lydia's sociopathic tendencies to the awful and life-changing bit of personal history they share. Leave that aside, though, and you can still have a bit of fun watching their game of cat and mouse play out.
A harmless page-turner.