An alternative title for this book could have been "ETHICS? WHAT FUCKING ETHICS?" Honestly, as a psychology major who worked in an actual research laboratory setting, this book pained me on a grievously personal and professional level lol. Huge swaths of this book had me gripping this book in my fingers and chanting, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no." But we'll get to that.
I just read these authors' other book, THE WIFE BETWEEN US, and I really liked it. When my sister gave me their follow-up, I was super excited. I'm really picky about mysteries but one of my favorites is what my friend and I like to call a FULT, a.k.a., a Fucked Up Lady Thriller. And the premise of this one is really interesting. Jess, the heroine, is a makeup artist struggling to make ends meet who also has incredibly bad luck with men. When one of her clients talks about a survey where the payout is $500 and suggests she might cancel, Jess decides to pretend to be a college student so she can show up in her college-age client's place instead.
The survey is related to an ethics-related experiment and all of the questions are geared towards probing the grayscale of human morality. It's easy to judge matters objectively, but where do the lines get drawn? Pretty soon, the questions-- and the follow-up experiments-- start to make Jess uncomfortable. Because the professor running the experiments, a Dr. Shields, isn't being completely honest about their true motives for the study-- or what happened to all of the participants who took it before.
This took a long time to get rolling. In some ways, it felt like a debut, which made me kind of shocked that it was their sophomore effort. Their first book was sooo much better. I can't knock the plotting and pacing of this one, but the motivations of the characters and what ended up playing out kind of felt a little unrealistic for me to swallow. Then there's also the fact that I literally worked in this industry and it kind of felt like yet another lazy attempt to tap into the stereotype that all psychologists/psychiatrists are evil mind-fuckers who just want to watch people squirm (even though this is probably true-- jk). The authors also employed a narrative device that I didn't really like. To show how utterly cold and and impassive one of the characters is, the authors narrate all of this character's chapters in the passive voice. So they'll read like this: The student is observed coming out of the car. Doors are opened, greetings exchanged. The student is told: "Hello." "Hello," is the response back. I don't know, it just felt really affected and twee and started to annoy me after a while. Who talks like that?
I don't regret reading this book and I'd definitely read more from them, but I probably won't be recommending it to anyone else, either. Read THE WIFE BETWEEN US instead.
3 out of 5 stars