Freak by Jennifer Hillier
Publisher:Gallery/August 7th, 2012
Kind thanks to Gallery for providing a review copy
Sitting alone in a maximum-security prison cell, Abby Maddox is a celebrity. Her claim to fame is the envy of every freak on the outside: she’s the former lover of Ethan Wolfe, the killer who left more than a dozen dead women in his wake and nearly added Puget Sound State professor Sheila Tao to the tally. Now Abby, serving a nine-year sentence for slashing a police officer’s throat in a moment of rage, has little human contact—save for the letters that pour in from demented fans, lunatics, and creeps. But a new wave of murders has given Abby a possible chance for a plea bargain—because this killer has been sending her love letters, and carving a message on the bodies of the victims: Free Abby Maddox.
Jerry Isaac will never forget the attack—or his attacker. The hideous scarring and tortured speech are daily reminders that the one-time Seattle PD officer, now a private investigator, is just lucky to be alive. Abby Maddox deserves to rot in jail—forever, as far as Jerry’s concerned. But she alone may possess crucial evidence—letters from this newest killer—that could crack open the disturbing case. With the help of Professor Sheila Tao, seasoned police detective Mike Torrance, and intuitive criminology student Danny Mercy, Jerry must coax the shattering truth from isolated, dangerous Abby Maddox. Can he put the pieces together before Abby’s number one fan takes another life in the name of a killer’s perverted idea of justice?
REVIEW (No spoilers for this one, but if you haven’t read Creep yet, here’s my review)
I adored Creep, the first novel featuring Jerry Isaac, Sheila Tao, and Abby Maddox, so was anxious to see where the author would take these characters in Freak. Abby is now in prison, charged with the murder of one of the girls in EthanWolfe’s basement of horror and assaulting retired police officer Jerry Isaac. Abby has absolutely no plan to go down for murder, however, and promises to help the police find a new killer in exchange for immunity and (hopefully) a short stretch in a minimum security prison. Someone is killing escorts and carving “Free Abby Maddox” into them with increased rage and intensity, and when they finally narrow their suspects down to a troubled man who seems more than happy to confess, it seems they have their killer. Not so fast…
Freak focuses mostly on Jerry Isaac and his search for the killer alongside his former partner Mike Torrance. Jerry also has a new assistant, the bright, sharp as a tack Danny Mercy, who was certainly a very interesting new addition to the cast of characters. Freak is more of a straightforward “catch the killer” type of story than Creep was. Creep was more psychological, and while that aspect is still here, most of the time is spent trying to stay ahead of the killings. We do, of course, get to see much more of Abby Maddox, and she’s about as creepy as they come: beautiful, extremely smart, and, of course, a master manipulator. That girl has more tentacles than an octopus, and she manages to extend them way beyond the walls of her prison. She’s the most intriguing character in the book, and getting to know her is a lesson in chilling. We’re used to men being the psychos, but in recent years, authors like Chelsea Cain and J.A. Konrath have given us some pretty formidable, and beautiful, psychos. They’re not sitting alone in squalor, wringing their hands, muttering to themselves. Not these ladies! They’re busy manipulating every last person they come in contact with, chewing them up, and spitting them out. Makes for a very fun read. However, I was hoping Sheila had grown a bit from the last novel, but she continues to make some decisions that don’t seem to be helping her cause (ie: keeping her teaching job, in spite of her sex addiction, and not letting Abby manipulate her). Conversely, it’s her vulnerability that makes her so likeable, at least for me. We’re pretty fragile things, after all, and her need for love and acceptance, especially for someone so lovely and accomplished, are what drives her much of the time, and granted, she’s still healing from the three week horror that she went through with Ethan Wolfe. Frankly, it’s probably a small miracle that she got through it with her mind intact. Most people wouldn’t. The author is very good at creating tension, and keeping it going until the end. If you like rockin’ thrillers that just won’t quit, with plenty of twists and turns, you’ll really enjoy Freak!