Jennifer Hillier
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Buy *Creep* by Jennifer Hillier online

Jennifer Hillier
432 pages
July 2012
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Part salacious trash, part an intense exploration on the nature of addiction, Hillier’s tense, tightly-plotted debut thriller finds psychology professor Dr. Sheila Tao addicted to sex. Sheila just can’t get enough off it, especially when she gets together with hunky twenty-something graduate student Ethan Wolfe, a boy with an attitude and a sex drive to match Sheila’s.

Deeply scarred by his childhood experiences of being locked in a closet while his mother burned in a house fire, Ethan has managed to hide his deepest insecurities from Sheila. But with a smile that turns on a desire to please, Ethan finds his life once again shattered when Sheila tells him she’s in love with an overweight, recovering alcoholic - Texan financier Morris Gardener.

Thirty-five, divorced and childless, it’s time for Sheila to start a life with Morris. She’s positive that she’s making the right decision to marry him, and his new engagement ring “flashes like fire” on her left hand. It’s bad news for Ethan, though. As Sheila scrambles to cover up her infidelity so that Morris can never find out, Ethan is devastated that he will be no longer working with his sexy supervisor.

The stage is set. Ethan threatens to send a compromising video of Sheila viral and then threatens to kill both her and Morris. Ethan can’t quite believe that he’s been dumped for Morris, this “oversize gorilla” who has somehow managed to make him feel tiny and inconsequential. It never occurred to Ethan that it would end this way on Sheila's terms.

As Ethan resorts to desperate measures, Hillier constructs a disconcertingly dark novel of murder, obsession and violence, simultaneously fascinating and repelling the reader with scenes of raw sex, the author’s gruff and insensitive tone enhancing the furtive, forbidden attractions that exist just beneath the surface of our daily lives.

When Ethan volunteers with his gorgeous girlfriend to help out the homeless at a local soup kitchen, he’s plagued by memories of so many girls, his groin twitching at the thought of his hands clawing around their throats while they look at him with terrified eyes. Meanwhile, Sheila vanishes, and Morris is given the dirty work of trying to find her. Sheila’s therapist refuses to break her confidentiality agreement and tell Morris and Jerry, the private investigator Morris has hired, the true nature of Sheila's relationship with Ethan.

Hillier shepherds us through a nightmare of sexual compulsion as manipulative Ethan sees pain in Sheila’s desire and in her heartbreak. Sex precipitates violence in this slick and absorbing debut, and Sheila has no choice but to offer herself to Ethan the way he ultimately needs her, terrified of kissing the lips of a man who seemingly personifies “monster."

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2011

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