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Creep by Jennifer Hiller: Riveting Reviews

Melissa Sugar's Review: Creep by Jennifer Hiller

A Thriller of Deadly Attraction

Hiller's debut novel was released in July, 2011. It is published by Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster inc.

Rating: A+   5 stars


Dr. Sheila Tao, a psychologist is a recovering sex addict who must break off  the affair she is having with Ethan Wolfe, one of her teaching assistants because she is engaged to be Married. Her fiancĂ©, Morris, is a good man, but she has been unable to come clean with him about her sex addiction. 
Dr. Tao breaks off the affair with Ethan and tells Morris the whole story-almost. She admits to her sex addiction which understandably upsets Morris and he leaves on a business trip without giving Sheila a definitive answer as to whether the wedding will take place in one week, as planned.  She doesn't disclose to Morris, the identity of the student she cheated on him with.

Ethan does not take the news well and is unwilling to let her go. He has plans for Sheila, that include ruining her reputation, her marriage and getting her fired. Sheila thinks she can handle Ethan, but she is in over her head and is  completely unaware of just how far he will go to stop her from leaving. He will not lose her to Morris.

While on his trip, Morris falls of the wagon and begins drinking again.  He also realizes that he can forgive Sheila, and he wants to proceed with the wedding . When Sheila fails to show for their scheduled appointment with the wedding planner he begins to worry, but his worry turns to sorrow then anger when he listens to a voice mail left by Sheila,  calling off the wedding. What he doesn't know is the she is being held captive by Ethan Wolfe, who forced her to make that call with a gun pointed at her head. 

Something about Sheila's abrupt departure from her home, her career and her life doesn't feel right to Morris and he hires a private investigator to  locate her. Will he find her before it is too late?

My Reaction:

I read Creep, when it was first released, but I was remiss in writing a review. Better late than never, right. This seems to be the perfect time for my delayed review because Hiller's second book, Freak, is scheduled to be released on August 7, 2012 .

  You can pre-order your copy of Freak by Jennifer Hiller at the discounted introductory price of $13.91 at Amazon.

Hiller's debut thriller, Creep  can compete with the best of the best thriller and mystery writers.  Hiller, hooks her readers with the first line of Creep.

               " Three months. That's how long Dr. Sheila Tao had been sleeping with Ethan Wolfe. Three months, four days, and approximately six hours."

In the next paragraph we learn that the affair is not her biggest problem. Her bigger problem is that she is engaged to Morris and the affair has to end.

This is one of the best opening lines and hooks that I've read and I have read thousands of books. I read primarily thrillers and mystery/suspense.  Hiller doesn't let up after the initial hook. I was captivated from the first line of the first page through the suspenseful ending.

What do we learn from every writing craft book, seminar, class, or workshop?  The most important factor in writing a book that readers won't want to put down is to create well rounded, fleshed out, and multi-faceted characters.  Hiller knocks it out of the ballpark. You won't find any cardboard, flat characters in Creep.  Her protagonist, Dr. Sheila Tao, is an example for new and veteran writers to learn by. She is someone we emphasize with. This is a classic example of giving your main character flaws, but still creating reader empathy and connection. Despite all of Dr. Tao's flaws and secrets we still root for her.

Hiller has done what we normally see from only skilled, veteran authors. She managed to make us pull for a less than perfect protagonist. I mean, having an affair when you are engaged to be married to a wonderful man; that's a tough one to pull off for even the most advanced authors. Dr. Sheila Tao's character arc is brilliant. She begins flawed and through a series of missteps and mistakes she emerges a truly and believable transformed woman.

Creating a character with an edge: 

It's not as easy as Hiller makes it look. Writer's must walk a fine line between damaged and unsympathetic. Do it right, as Hiller did, you get the former, but go just one step too far and you get the latter.

I resonated with Sheila Tao because I am not perfect; none of us are.  I have, as I am sure you have, my own  secrets and flaws. We have lived to regret the consequences of our mistakes.  Dr. Sheila Tao, is instantly relatable to readers. She is a protagonist I won't easily forget.

What makes the character, Sheila Tao, work for Hiller?

  • Vulnerability
  • Desire to change
  • Redemption
  • True Character Transformation
The antagonist, Ethan Wolfe is just as three dimensional and complex as the protagonist.  How does Hiller create such multi-faceted and profound characters?  She does an excellent job of layering her character's secrets, motives, goals and characteristics and slowly unravels the backstory of her major characters with precise timing. I never felt removed from the story, there were no information dumps and the plot never stopped moving forward. Hiller does this with as much ease as bestselling authors Lisa Gardner,  James Grippando,  Dennis Lehane,  David Ellis and the likes.

Hiller is exceptional at weaving the depths of her characters into the plot. Just as we get to know more about the people we connect with in real life, little by little as their mask come off, Hiller shows us the different sides of Sheila, Morris and Ethan.

Ethan begins as just another cocky, good looking man who believes he can have any woman he wants. As his character unravels we learn more about him and what makes him tick. We see that he is bad, but wonder if he is really evil and if so is it because he is mentally disturbed ? As the plot progresses and his obsession with Sheila escalates we become privy to his past wounds and secrets. He is a bad dude with just enough charm and charisma to pull off his evil deeds.  There is even a time (albeit short) while he is holding Sheila captive when I very nearly felt sorry for him.

That is just how good Jennifer Hiller is at developing true to life, complex, well rounded characters. She peels back the layers a little at a time and at just the precise moments so that we understand (not agree with) why Ethan does what he does.

I was completely immersed in Hiller's story world and I read with fervent tenacity, her stupendous, gripping thriller. I finished this book in one long night as I was unable to put it down.  Her careful placing of clues were not obvious, but when I looked back at the conclusion of the book, I found myself saying, " Now, I see it. I should have picked up on that ..."  Just when I thought I could predict Ethan's next move, Hiller surprised me with another intense plot twist.

I was completely engrossed in this riveting thriller and the gripping pace in which the story unfolded.  Creep, is not the work one would expect from a debut author. Jennifer Hiller is now on my top five list of mystery/suspense/thriller writers. She ranks up there with the best.  Fans of Lisa Gardner,  Michael Connelly,  Lisa Jackson,  Lisa Scottoline,  Chelsea Cain,  Tami Hoag,  Harlan Coben,  and Laura Lippman will enjoy this deeply layered thriller that is rife with multi-faceted characters.

I just pre-ordered Freak and I am chomping at the bit for the release.  Jennifer Hiller is certain to become a recognized favorite author for readers of  thrillers and mystery/suspense.

Creep by Jennifer Hiller Makes the Gold List

Be sure to visit author, Jennifer Hiller's website and blog, The Serial Killer Files to read more about her soon to be released thriller, Freak.  Learn more about thriller author, Jennifer Hiller on her website.


Melissa Sugar said...

She will be thrilled to see your review! I have her book on my iPad (the only time I've ever spent more than ten bucks on an eBook, but it was for a blogger buddy) but I haven't had a chance to read it yet.

Melissa Sugar said...

Like Alex said, I know she will be wowed by your in-depth review which was also a mini-lesson on how to write well-developed heroines and villains.  Bravo, Melissa.  Roland

Melissa Sugar said...

Aloha Melissa,

Wow, high praise for a book like this meant I put in on my TBR list *before* I commented :)

PS... thanks for signing up for our "What If?" Blogfest. Much appreciated and we're all going to have much fun... I hope :)

Melissa Sugar said...

Excellent review. A book which retains my interest is one with well-developed characters who have multi-faceted and complex personalities. This book sounds like it fits the bill!

Melissa Sugar said...

What a great review, Melissa.  'Creep' sounds like an excellent read.

Melissa Sugar said...

Once again, the characters make the story. Thanks for the review, Melissa!

Melissa Sugar said...

I couldn't agree more.  One of the things I loved the most about Creep was Dr. Sheila Tao.  BECAUSE she wasn't perfect and yet Hillier still made her likeable.  Really amazing stuff.  I can't wait for Freak!

Melissa Sugar said...

Whoa. Sounds like a thrilling adventure! Thanks for sharing such a fabulous review, Melissa. :D 

Melissa Sugar said...

Wow, that's a great review, in terms of style and substance.  I loved CREEP and can't wait to FREAK.  Thanks Melissa!

Melissa Sugar said...

I've read bits and pieces about Creep, but you sold it to me big time. I'm adding it to my TBR list!

Melissa Sugar said...

Wow it seems like Jennifer wrote an excellent book. Definitely going to get Creep and maybe even Freak as well. :-)

Melissa Sugar said...

Oh! I've had CREEP on my TBR list for ages it seems, and your review makes me want to run grab a copy NOW! Just might have to do that. This sounds interesting and awful and good! :D <3

Melissa Sugar said...

Creep sounds very interesting.  I'll definitely check that one out!

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