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Creep

by Jennifer Hillier

It should be the happiest time of her life, but Dr. Sheila Tao has never been so miserable. She’s a tenured professor of psychology at Puget Sound University. She’s engaged. Everything is perfect – except Sheila is a recovering sex addict, and for three months she’s been off the wagon, engaging in an affair with grad student Ethan Wolfe.

When Sheila decides to break things off with Ethan, she hopes he will take the high road and respect her wishes. Instead, he becomes the titular creep of Toronto expat Jennifer Hillier’s debut thriller. At first his perfidy is limited to mind games and blackmail to keep his position at the university. Afraid of losing her job and fiancé, Morris, Sheila complies with his demands.

Soon, Ethan begins donning elaborate disguises and stalking the couple. Tired of fantasizing about murdering his ex-lover, Ethan follows Sheila to a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting, where he drugs and kidnaps her. His meticulous preparation pays off: although the police investigate, they can find nothing to suggest Sheila didn’t leave town of her own volition. Morris doesn’t believe this for an instant, and hires a private investigator to look into the case. In a large coincidence (one noted even by the characters themselves), Sheila’s therapist turns out to be the PI’s wife.

Meanwhile, Sheila is kept in plastic restraints, and at one point is shown into a “workroom” with women’s body parts encased in concrete. Using her training as a psychiatrist, she attempts to humanize herself to Ethan, hoping to stay alive long enough to either be rescued, or find a way to kill him.

Despite the apparent prurience of the book’s subject matter, Hillier handles Sheila’s addiction with subtlety; the novel is more interested in the nature of addiction than in sex itself. Hillier’s unembellished prose moves Creep briskly along, resulting in a page-turning read.