Sunday, July 29, 2012

"Creep" by Jennifer Hillier

Dr. Sheila Tao is a psychology professor who has just ended a three-month affair with Ethan Wolfe, her teaching assistant, as she is about to get married to Morris Gardner, the managing partner of a big bank. Ethan doesn't take too kindly to being dumped and reveals his sociopathic/psychopathic side and makes her life hell. He threatens to release a sex tape of the two of them. He shirks his teaching assisant duties and plays all sorts of mind games. When that's not enough, he goes and kidnaps her.

Morris is convinced that Sheila hasn't just abruptly taken off for parts unknown, although that's what the police think. He is eventually put into contact with private detective Jerry Isaac and the two of them try to find out what happened to Sheila.

I'm not sure what this book wants us to feel about the character of Sheila Tao. While I liked her, I wasn't certain if that's what the book wanted me to do. She's punished and humiliated so consistently throughout the novel I got the uneasy sensation that this novel was suggesting she somehow deserved what was coming to her. Yes, she's done a lot of dumb things, but jeez, talk about overkill.

For me, events took a turn for the worse when Sheila was kidnapped. Until then, the psychological mind games were both suspenseful and believable. Once she was stuck in Ethan's basement, it just turned into another second-rate torture-porn scenario which placed our heroine into increasingly far-fetched and mean-spirited situations. Also, the focus then shifted to Morris and Jerry's attempts to track down Sheila.

The problem here is that I know where Sheila is. Following Morris and Jerry around so much was a little dull. There was a distinct lack of urgency. Despite the fact Sheila is being held against her will in Ethan's basement, the author is unable to generate the necessary tension or make us believe that Ethan will kill Sheila at any moment. Therefore I didn't feel any sort of race-against-time element to Morris and Jerry's investigation.

Throw in one unnecessary (and convenient) plot twist, then another more-obvious plot twist (that sets up potential sequels) and a pathetic, non-existant climax and there you have it. "Creep" is initially involving, but degenerates into the sort of cheap and nasty written equivalent of a torture-porn thriller that would get released straight to DVD. I like my suspense clever and edgy. Or fun and trashy. Actually, I like all sorts of suspense, just not the sort that uncomfortably suggests that the supposed-to-be-sympathetic main character deserves what she's getting.

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