“ Author: Jennifer Hillier / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 22 December 2011 / Genre: Crime & Thriller / Subcategory: Thriller / Suspense General / Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group / Title: Creep / ISBN 13: 9780751549010 / ISBN 10: 0751549010 „
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My friend Sue handed me her copy if CREEP to read. I started to read it later the same day. I thought the story was quite slow to get going but probably that was me being impatient as the author, Jennifer Hillier, was merely setting the scene and describing her characters. Once I got into the story, I could not put it down. The heroine is Dr Sheila Tao who is a Professor of Psychology at Puget Sound University in Seattle. She has a team of teaching assistants who are students at the university and are undertaking work in her department to help them understand their subject better.
One of Dr Sheila Tao's teaching assistants is Ethan Wolfe. He is good-looking, highly intelligent and clearly the most talented psychology student in his year. He fancies Dr Sheila but bides his time. Unknown to her, tasks Dr Sheila gives to Etham he sub-contracts to other students and then claims the work done as his own.
Dr Tao is a sex addict but she hadn't mentioned this to her fiancée - Morris Gardener. Morris is a tall, large man who trusts Sheila. However kind and nice he is with Sheila, Morris is utterly ruthless in business. Morris successfully played American Football and was at the top of his game when injury ended his career. He went into a new career of finance and became a wealthy, successful banker.
Ethan Wolfe saw his chance and managed to have a conversation with his university professor, Dr Sheila Tao when she was vulnerable and struggling with her sex addiction and the need to be honest with her fiancée. Sheila ended up having a sex session with Ethan. Afterwards, she bitterly regretted her folly but Ethan wanted more, so much more!
Ethan Wolfe secretly researched his subject: Sheila - her family; her home; her hobbies; where she bought her clothes; what she liked to eat etc. He broke into her home and fondled her underwear. This was one if the many activities he undertook that made me squirm. He even disguised himself and attended a job interview with Morris Gardener! Morris did not realise he was interviewing one of his fiancee's teaching assistant's, but he did think he recognised the candidate's voice. Morris was unable to put a name to the voice though.
Morris was estranged from one of his sons and Sheila had asked him to help with the guest list for her forthcoming wedding to Morris. Ethan decided he was not going to allow Sheila to marry Morris - she was his and his alone! He abducted Sheila and imprisoned her in the basement of his luxury home. He had his own girlfriend but she knew nothing of Ethan's huge wealth or large property. Ethan was a guy with a lot of secrets.
This novel left me wondering how much any of us know another person? Yes, the story was aptly titled as Creep. It made me feel very uncomfortable many times but mostly when he tied Sheila to a bed. There was a happy ending, thank goodness and Morris rescued Sheila from Ethan and he was happily reconciled with his estranged son.
As a psychologist, I love psychological thrillers, even more so when the main character is a psychologist, as they often allow greater insight into the human mind. The works of Jonathan Kellerman always entertain me and I've come across newer authors in the field in Aifric Campbell and N J Cooper. This, allied with Jennifer Hillier using the same title as my favourite Radiohead song, put me in an anticipatory mood for ''Creep''
Dr. Sheila Tao is a psychology professor at Puget Sound State University in Seattle. She lives a double existence, having an affair with one of her students, but then getting engaged to a banker and former American footballer in Morris. Knowing that this double life cannot last, she dumps the student, Ethan Wolfe, but can't bring herself to confide in her fiancé that part of the reason she was seeing him is that she's also a sex addict.
Ethan isn't about to let Sheila go without a fight. He threatens to expose their affair by posting a video on the internet that could ruin both the wedding and her career. When this fails to win her back, he kidnaps Sheila and forces her to leave messages suggesting she has left town suddenly. Morris doesn't believe she would just run out on their wedding and sets about finding the truth.
I liked ''Creep'' in the same way and for similar reasons I enjoyed "No Escape" by N J Cooper. The story has a slow burn, introducing the layers of the characters piece by piece. We get to see the different sides of Sheila; teacher, lover, sex addict. Ethan appears as sulky dumped lover, devoted boyfriend and humanitarian, giving his time at a soup kitchen for the homeless. Morris also has a depth to him beyond his work and his failed football career, as a former alcoholic and absent father.
Every stage of the story adds another layer to the characters. Some overcome past discretions; others are consumed by them. Just when you think you know a character, the story adds more, like a game of pass the parcel in reverse. Even with the sheer depth involved, I felt as if some aspects were only skimmed over and the book could have explored them more deeply. These missing parts were usually the ones the characters kept secret from each other, meaning the reader never felt a step ahead of the characters themselves, as can often happen. This was expertly done and left me wanting to know more, but that only happened when the time was right.
If there is one minor criticism of the story, it was that the pacing felt a little off. It was a slow burn novel and this worked incredibly well at building up suspense. However, it did seem to smoulder for a little too long before bursting into life and the denouement felt slightly rushed by comparison. It was always a fascinating read, full of either intrigue or adrenaline rush, but the combination of the two parts felt as if they were completely separate stories that didn't quite work together.
If you have the patience to persevere and particularly for those readers who appreciate something with a little more depth, ''Creep'' is ultimately an excellent read, with some well written characters and more reveals than a magician's show. How well put together the book is becomes even more impressive when you realise this is Jennifer Hillier's debut novel and I'm already wondering what may happen next from this clearly talented writer. There may be a bandwagon to jump on in future, but with the book available from a penny plus postage from the Amazon Marketplace, you could do a lot worse than to jump on it right away.
This is a slightly amended version of a review first published under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk