Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Book Review - "Still Missing" by Chevy Stevens

Still Missing is a disturbing book. First-time author Chevy Stevens must have had to dig deep into dark places of her psyche to create such a creepy character as the kidnapper is. Victim Annie dubs him The Freak, and he certainly puts her though a wide range of abuse: psychological, physical, sexual. It's no wonder she sleeps in the closet when she returns home. Everything he does to her is manipulative, and fighting him only makes it worse. Annie becomes so tortured she doesn't know how she'll hang on.

Annie is a thirty-something Realtor, packing up her signs at the end of a hot summer day after an open house. She's almost finished when a charming man comes by and asks her if she'd mind showing him around. As she's taking him through the house, he pulls a gun and forces her into his van. He takes her to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, where Annie is forced to rely on her wits to survive through a horrific year. She quickly finds out the abduction wasn't random. He knows too many things about her and has prepared the cabin just for her. In order to zone out and keep some sanity, Annie becomes an obsessive counter: tiles, ceiling holes, bricks, water drops, anything to take her focus off her situation.

Annie tells her story in sessions with her psychiatrist, so the reader knows she gets away. Exactly how that comes about is part of the suspense. Annie also relates what life has been like for her since her return. She deals with reporters, Hollywood agents, her former boyfriend, her narcissistic mother, and the demons in her own mind. Her story is riveting. It's like watching a car crash--you are helpless to do anything about it, but you can't bring yourself to leave the scene.

In a sense Annie's troubles only begin once she returns home. Her story of getting her life back is profoundly shattered when events take a turn into a place she never imagined they would go. Her nightmare may be over, but what brought it about is just as terrible.

So Still Missing is disturbing. Annie's year in the cabin is so well-written you won't be able to stop thinking about it even after you close the book. Her struggle to fit in after her return, her dealings with her family and friends is also realistic. What weakens the story a little for me is the part about what precipitated her kidnapping. I was enthralled and sickened by the actions of Annie's abuser--Stevens really gets into his head--and I was anxious to see how she'd deal with life back home, all of which were suspenseful enough. But then the investigation into who The Freak really was and how he got involved is settled in a slightly predictable yet convoluted way. The story was captivating before becoming something of a whodunit, and I wasn't entirely excited to follow that path.

However, I still highly recommend the book. For lovers of psychological thrillers, suspense novels, character studies, or mysteries, this will consume your days and nights. You won't be able to put it down, and once you do manage to let the cover close, you'll still be turning it over in your mind. You'll find yourself looking over your shoulder, wondering if what happened to Annie could happen to you.

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