Book Notes: Chevy Stevens' 'Still Missing' a horror-filled whodunit
‘Still Missing’ By Chevy Stevens. St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2010. 352 pages. $24.99.
Chevy Stevens’ first novel, a thriller titled “Still Missing,” is a compendium of horrors inflicted upon a single captive woman. A psychopath kidnaps a young real estate agent at the conclusion of an open house, holds her hostage for a year, uses a razor to shave every hair off her body from the neck down every day, rapes her pretty much every day, impregnates her, beats her, starves her, makes her help carve up a still-warm deer for dinner, on and on.
These horrors, and I’ve only listed some of them, are presented in a way that keeps you guessing. What next? Will she live through this? Will I? Torture and terrorizing women do not entertain me.
The victim, Annie O’Sullivan, is a familiar character — modern, feisty, brave. Since she’s in therapy, we actually know she survives, but we don’t know if Annie is telling the truth, if she’s lost her mind or even if the therapist is trustworthy. Annie’s nightmare does not end with her freedom.
Annie tells the story of her abduction and aftermath in a series of sessions with her therapist. It’s a good technique because we can’t fully trust that Annie is entirely forthright. The story unfolds in bits and pieces, prompting good suspense. And Annie’s growth from severely traumatized to gradually healing to insightful and empowered provides an intriguing overlay to the unreliable-narrator situation.
Annie’s story is loaded with red herrings. She relates incidents and describes people’s actions that range from odd to perplexing to downright evil. You can’t count on her, however, to sort it all out. What about that loser of a stepfather that she tolerates and even likes? What about her boyfriend who is absent at precisely the moment of her abduction? How dare she invest trust in an investigating police officer who never answers his phone? Annie has a lot on her plate. She copes with severe PTSD, including sleep deprivation, amnesia and more. To make matters worse, there’s another attempt at kidnapping. No wonder she prefers spending her sleepless nights locked in a closet with her dog.
There are probably too many red herrings and not enough plot support for the eventual reckoning with truth. If you pay attention, though, you can join in and figure out whodunit.
Rae Francoeur can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog: freefallrae.blogspot.com. Her memoir “Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair” is available in bookstores and online.