The Drug Trial

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Pub Date 07 Jul 2022 | Archive Date 07 Jul 2022
Harper 360, One More Chapter

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‘A tantalising premise, this wholly engaging suspense delivers in droves . . . a first-class thrill ride’ ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ NetGalley Reviewer‘Brilliant concept . . . a captivating read’ Reader Review

Would you sign up to a medical trial if you didn’t know the possible side effects?


It seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. An all-inclusive luxury trip abroad, all you need to do is take a pill every day and keep a diary.

Except you don’t know anything about the drug or what its side effects might be.

The headaches start, a dull ache at first. Every day worse than the last.

Then a body is found.

Everyone is a suspect. Anyone could be a killer. Even you . . .

2022’s biggest summer thriller, for fans of Alex Michaelides, T. M. Logan and Ruth Ware

Praise for S. R. Masters

‘Gripping [and] compelling’ T. M. Logan

Exceptional’ Rachel Edwards

Creepy . . . original’ Phoebe Morgan

Twisty’ Dervla McTiernan

Thrilling’ Claire Allan

‘Original and gripping’ Laura Marshall

‘A tantalising premise, this wholly engaging suspense delivers in droves . . . a first-class thrill ride’ ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ NetGalley Reviewer‘Brilliant concept . . . a captivating read’ Reader Review


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ISBN 9780008560386
PRICE $2.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 11 members

Featured Reviews

I was looking for a great medical thriller, and boy did I find one! The concept of the book is new (at least to me, not having read a lot of medical thrillers). The book is very engaging, and easy to read. Right off the bat, the prologue leaves you wanting more. While some of the middle does get a little slow, it quickly speeds up until you’re turning the pages so fast because you want to read more. Masters was masterful with keeping the reader guessing and coming up with a twist that couldn’t be seen coming. All the theories that I came up with – all the twists that I thought were coming – were completely wrong. This is what makes a fantastic book! Moreover, I can see this being a great movie as well. I can’t wait to read more from this author.

Bravo to Masters on such a fantastic book. This will be available on July 7, 2022. Make sure you pre-order your copy today.

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I loved this book! I didn’t want to stop reading, and my heart was actually pounding after I got past the halfway point. I think it will definitely be a hit. Thanks for letting me read it!

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I’ve been reading a lot of relaxing cozy mysteries and was looking for something a little more clever, a little edgier and boy, did I find it. The Drug Trial takes us on an adventure of mystery, intrigue, and thrill.

When an alleged drug trial taking place on the Canary Islands is announced, it instantly attracts single and still living with her mom Elle. Elle’s life is a bit devoid of real satisfaction. Elle can use the money for participating and finds the thought of spending time in the Canary Islands, away from her disappointing life, more than a little appealing. All she needs to do is take a pill daily and journal her experience. So, she signs up and flies off to an island in the archipelago in the Atlantic, hoping the experience will somehow enrich her otherwise dull life. What happens, however, is totally unexpected and admittedly could never be described as dull. At first, the experience is very enjoyable. As the participants soak up the tropical sun, enjoying immense amenities. But suddenly thins take a turn for the bad as unwanted side effects and even deaths occur.

Will Elle survive the experiment? What is in the pill? Who’s behind the expensive and mysterious experiment? And what is the experiment really about? Buckle up and enjoy a gripping psychological thriller full of surprises.

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This was a very interesting read. If something seems to good to be true such as a paid clinical trial on an island is it? Or is it just luck? Who is taking the drug and who is taking the placebo? But once bodies start turning up and you realize everyone is a suspect including yourself, where do you turn? This storyline would make a good movie or tv show as well.

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“It’s just good science.”

This was a wild ride, full of suspense and unexpected twists! I think fans of The Wilds, Black Mirror, or social experiments would love this. I’m a Big Brother super-fan so this was my cup of tea.

Elle is having a tough go of it, living with her lazy bum mom and working a job that isn’t dead-end but it isn’t where she wants to be. She books herself a much needed vacation before she has a heavier work and school load but ends up instead using the money to bail her mom out of one of her schemes so she’s back to square one.

One night when her mom is out, Elle sees an invitation to apply for a clinical trial. It sounds too good to be true! Money and a month long vacation. The weirdest part is it’s only showing up on her mom’s computer. She didn’t clear those cookies! Elle applies and fails. A day or two later, drunk Elle is thinking about it again and applies but lies on the app and gets accepted.

This trial seems pretty suspicious from the start. 🚩 They flew to an island but don’t know where they are. They can’t get online but they have all the entertainment and booze at their disposal. It’s still a vacation for some of them after all! Everyone is getting on well for the first week or two.

No one knows who is taking the real pill and who is taking placebo, but things soon start to fall off the rails completely. It starts with a headache. The behavior goes downhill from there and some of them get downright deranged. This isn’t going to end well.

So what’s going on here? Is this really a drug trial or is this some sort of social experiment? Is anyone who they say they are? I was suspicious of everyone at some point. I started feeling suspicious of myself and I wasn’t even there! Things were so chaotic. This ended up very violent and bloody! I was surprised but impressed. I felt I’d mention it in case some weren’t into that kind of thing.

My only small complaints are that I would have preferred a more detailed ending, especially since my other complaint is that it dragged on sometimes, too full of useless dialogue. So to have too much fluff, then a fast ending wasn’t ideal but the journey made up for it.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read and review!

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This suspense/thriller follows a group of 10 people who all sign up for a clinical trial to test out a medication. They get to spend the month at a luxury resort in the Canary Islands. All they have to do is take a pill every day, sit through a battery of tests, and keep a diary. If they complete the trial, they get paid £20,000. It all seems to be going well at the beginning, then some of the subjects start getting increasingly severe headaches and having some mood changes. The staff assure them it is not the medication - but then a body is found.

TW/CW: financial abuse by a parent, emotional abuse, animal death

There were a lot of characters in this and I think Masters did as good a job as possible helping introduce the reader to all of them in a memorable way. However, I still had a hard time keeping them all straight in my mind. I mixed up 2 of the men constantly and most of the women blended together in my mind. I took a quick skim through reviews that have already been posted and I wasn't seeing this as a wide complaint so this might just be a personal issue with how I process characters. I will say that I didn't find it necessarily impacted my understanding or enjoyment of the story which was good. Even if I got character A and B mixed up, in each scene, there was enough context to remind me of the key characterization points that will be important in the scene. So, for an example, if I was thinking that Adam was the super tall character but the scene I'm currently reading is with Ben, Masters would always throw in a mention about how tall Ben was. This way, even if I was mistaken at the beginning of the scene, I was quickly corrected and could just continue reading.

Despite having all these characters, we are only following Elle's POV in the story. I thought her introduction and background were really interesting and gave me enough details for me to completely buy into the premise that she would sign up for this trial without going overboard and getting too much background. Once she got to the trial location, she did feel like more of a wallflower observing some of the more colorful characters there. There were a number of red flags early on in the process that she brings up but then brushes aside with some rationale that I completely believed were accurate to her character (even if I didn't brush them aside). However, the other characters have different opinions and levels of concern that I think do a great job of mirroring different readers and what their reactions to these red flags are. I thought Elle was a really great POV to follow because Masters does a fantastic job setting her up as a sort of 'other' in this experiment. I think it would be natural for almost anyone to be put in a similar situation and think to themselves "I'm not like these other people". But slowly, as the trial and the whole situation begins to break down, we see some of these seams where maybe Elle isn't as different from these other characters as we (and she) initially thought.

The pacing was really great in the first 1/3 and last 1/3, but really slowed down in the middle for me. I did find this a little odd because the middle is where things really start to go sideways. However, I think we spent just a little too much time in the phase where characters were getting suspicious but the staff at the facility were consistently assuring them everything is going okay. The pacing in the beginning of meeting Elle, getting selected for the trial, and then meeting the other participants goes by really quickly so the reader is just thrown into this situation with Elle. We do have some great moments of all the characters getting to know each other and feeling out this whole situation. Then we start getting some gradual tension increase as characters begin to act strangely. I wanted that tension and pacing to keep gradually increasing, but instead it seemed to come in waves. We get a few waves of this increase in tension or suspicion and then Elle would calm down and trust the doctors and each time, it felt like Elle would almost relax too much after the doctors tried to explain things away. I didn't get as much worry or fear out of Elle and since she's the one character we're following, it meant that the whole churning middle of the book just felt more slow than I would expect. The pacing really picks up once things go absolutely bonkers in the last 1/3 and then I feel like Elle really comes out of her shell and starts being a more active participant in the whole situation.

The ending, I found, is really interesting but will probably be the most divisive part of the book. We do find out some details behind the trial but it is done is a really odd way that worked for me. Instead of getting some super long info-dump or villain monologue, we get a sort of stand-off situation where characters are asking and answering questions back and forth. It was set up really well that both sides have information that the other side wants so there's a delicate balance going on. However, I think as the questioning goes on, this initial tension is lost and we take a left turn into info-dump territory. The ending reveal was one that I think a lot of readers will end up guessing but I still found it interesting. I especially liked how there was one aspect of this big reveal that isn't agreeing with one of the characters. To avoid spoilers, I'll be vague, but we are told X and one character specifically says that is not true because of Y. Then the initial reveal says that character thinks Y is true but actually based on evidence X is true and the character is just in denial. So then, depending on if the reader thinks X or Y is true, it sort of changes the whole framework of the story. I really love ending reveals that make the reader immediately look back over the story and events suddenly become more/less important or get colored in a certain light. The X vs Y ending reveal gives two slightly different readings of the overall story that I think are both really interesting.

Overall, this was a really fun read that had a great hook and interesting premise. I think the pacing and tension faltered in the middle 1/3 but picked up enough by the end to be satisfying. Too many characters for me to keep them all separate, but since we were really only focused on Elle any mix-ups I had didn't really impact my reading experience that badly.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harper 360 for the ARC

Expected publication date is July 7, 2022

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