Monday, July 23, 2012

"The Creeper" by Tania Carver

Suzanne Perry is convinced she is being stalked by a mysterious figure who visits her while she sleeps. She's awake, but unable to move, unsure if it's a nightmare or not. The scenario proves to be real when she finds a polaroid the next morning, taken of her the night before. On the back are the words "I'm watching over you". Unfortunately, because of another stalking claim she had made that couldn't be proved, the police aren't entirely ready to believe this latest case.

Meanwhile, Detective Sergeant Phil Brennan and his team's latest case is the dead body of a woman who has been gruesomely murdered, with obvious sexual mutilation. The links to Suzanne Perry's situation soon become apparent. Clues are uncovered quickly, but it's quite a complicated, messy case. New team member Rose Martin is overly ambitious. New profiler Fiona Welsh is rubbing everybody up the wrong way and her profile doesn't seem on the mark. Brennan must also deal with his partner Marina Esposito, whose self-absorption must break some sort of Guinness World Record. Her appalling behaviour also distracts him from the case.

I have two major gripes with this novel, which I'll get out the way first, since I love to gripe. Firstly, there are some truly stupid character moves to be found here, obviously to force the plot where it needs to go. The Creeper, whom we quickly learn is hiding somewhere in  Suzanne's house, jerks off into a pair of her underwear and leaves it in the fridge as a present to her. Now, Suzanne has had trouble convincing the police she really is being stalked. Do her and her friend high-tail it out of there and contact the police with irrefutable proof that somebody is after Suzanne and has handily left behind some DNA? No, they get rid of the soiled underwear and stay overnight because Suzanne doesn't want to be chased out of her home.

I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. Somebody here is Too Stupid To Live.

Second major issue is the character of Marina Esposito. I truly disliked her in the first novel, "The Surrogate". Here, she is even worse. I DESPISED her. She's worse than Lena Adams from Karin Slaughter's novels. In fact, I don't think I have ever come across a more infuriating, odious character. Everything about her is ME, ME, ME. Her ex-lover is now brain-dead, left that way after a blow to the head he received in the previous novel. Marina thinks it's her fault. She also blames Phil, of course. It's HER decision over whether to turn off life support or not. Consequently, she takes off with her and Phil's baby daughter Josephina without saying where she's going and refusing to pick up the phone when he calls her. Because it's all just too much for her.

Phil just lets her get away with her atrocious behaviour. He's happy to wait for her to sort her issues out because he loves her so, so much. Phil - you're a douche. You're letting this selfish bitch walk all over you. Grow a pair of balls and send her packing. While you're at it, sue for full custody and make sure your daughter doesn't grow up with a crazy, narcissistic sociopath for a mother. For the first two thirds of the novel, the story grinds to a complete halt every time we have to spend a chapter with this disgusting woman.

Thankfully, in the last third she is marginally less irritating.

Now that my complaints are out the way, I have to say that this is actually a terrific thriller. Yes, you heard me right. It is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor. Those two gripes did take me out of the novel, but the rest was so good that I was ultimately able to forgive it. I found "The Creeper" to be legitimately scary, well-plotted and fast-paced. It got right what so many other crime novels get wrong. It stayed true to the police procedural angle, but made sure that something interesting was always happening. I was never bored. The killer was frightening and their origins revealed in a clever fashion. The plot twists were nicely timed. Once you figured out what was going on, something else would happen to keep you guessing about another aspect of the plot.

I started reading this one after midnight after a bout of insomia. I'm more than happy to pull out that old cliche of having to read with all the lights on, as that so rarely happens to me anymore when reading a thriller. This was genuinely scary and suspenseful, and built to a great climax. Books like this are the very reason why I'll give an author a second chance. "The Creeper" sucked me in, kept me hooked and, yes, gave me the creeps. Good job.

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