Interwoven with the story of the year Annie spent as the captive of a psychopath in a remote mountain cabin, which unfolds through sessions with her psychiatrist, is a second narrative recounting events following her escape—her struggle to piece her shattered life back together and the ongoing police investigation into the identity of her captor.
Still Missing is that rare debut find--a shocking, visceral, brutal and beautifully crafted debut novel.
Amazon Exclusive: Lisa Gardner Reviews Still Missing
New York Times bestselling crime novelist Lisa Gardner began her career in food service, but after her hair caught on fire numerous times she took the hint and focused on writing instead. A self-described research junkie, she has parlayed her interest in police procedure, cutting edge forensics, and twisted plots into a streak of 11 bestselling suspense novels, including her most recent release, The Neighbor. Read her guest review of Still Missing:
Heading to a beach? Boy do I have the book for you!
Every now and then a new author comes along that totally knocks one out of the park. As a reader, I’m always thrilled to discover a great new voice. As a writer, of course I’m insanely jealous and suffer a terrible case of why-didn’t-I-think-of-that? Given that debut author Chevy Stevens is young, beautiful and talented, I’ve been gnashing my teeth for months!
Still Missing represents psychological suspense at its very best. Realtor Annie O’Sullivan is abducted from an open house and held captive for a year in a remote cabin by a sadistic survivalist who considers her to be his wife as well as preferred breeding stock. His goal is to get her pregnant and live creepily-ever-after as the last man and woman on earth. Her goal is to get away from him.
Now, you know Annie wins this war as the book opens with her talking to a therapist. So you may ask, where is the suspense? I can’t give you a simple answer to that, other than to say every page crackles with it.
Still Missing creates one of the most haunting narratives I’ve read in years. On the one hand, survivor Annie is tough, angry, and brittle. The very worst has happened to her, and she escaped through her own ingenuity and frankly, savagery. On the other hand, survivor Annie is jumpy, terrified, and sleep-deprived. All these months later, she still can’t pee “off schedule.” In one of the more moving scenes of the novel, she downs a gallon of iced tea in order to force herself to urinate by her own free will. She can’t do it.
In addition to her compelling heroine, Stevens has created one of the best psychopaths since Hannibal Lector—and that’s not something I say lightly. Annie refers to her captor simply as The Freak. Much like Hannibal, The Freak considers himself to be a civilized human being. Intelligent, good looking and resourceful, he’s an excellent “husband.” He has provided a charming cabin. He supplies fresh food—sometimes so fresh that city slicker Annie must bleed it out first, but details, details. Of course he has expectations of his wife. She must be well groomed, properly garbed, and 100% submissive. All failures to comply are met with The Freak’s idea of appropriate punishment. The Freak is also thoughtful and tender. Want to stop sleeping for a few nights? Read the scene where The Freak first shaves Annie. And he means it in the nicest sort of way.
Stevens skillfully juxtapositions the back story of Annie’s captivity with the front story of a woman desperately trying to reclaim her old life. As with all great suspense novels, the surprises abound. Annie thought she’d survived the worst with The Freak. But has she?
As the taut cat and mouse game unfolds, you will cheer for Annie. You will hate The Freak. And you will be absolutely mesmerized by the last line of this novel. Then, most likely, you will return to page one, and start it all over again.
So give yourself a summer vacation. Check out debut author Chevy Stevens, and soon you will be Still Missing.
Quill & Quire
Annie O’Sullivan has good reason to complain during her regularly scheduled therapy sessions. But the thirtysomething’s revelations go far beyond Portnoy-style gripes. Where once her hometown, the tiny Vancouver Island hamlet of Clayton Falls, was unknown to the general public, it has recently been identified in the popular consciousness as the place where the lady realtor was abducted.
Stevens’ gripping debut novel starts at the end of Annie’s year-long ordeal, during which she was the physical and psychological captive of a blithe psychopath at his remote mountain cabin. The details of her experience, which Annie describes with caustic bluntness, are disturbing and not for squeamish readers. Although those details stay just shy of crossing over into torture-porn, they are necessary if we are to understand how a strong, capable woman like Annie is emotionally and psychologically ravaged.
The real shocks in Annie’s account, however, come after she returns home, when she is forced to cope with personality changes, media scrutiny, and puzzling discrepancies in how her loved ones behave before and after her abduction. Stevens is adept at tightening the noose of suspense, shaping her story so it rises and falls dramatically as it progresses toward its 11th-hour revelations. The final twist will remain in the reader’s mind long after the book is finished.
Still Missing succeeds because it forces the reader to identify with Annie, however uncomfortably; we find ourselves wondering how we would fare in her dire situation, faced with a merciless captor or grappling with narcissism disguised as unconditional family love. While I did wish for some greater care with the prose and heightened attention to police procedure – which leans a little too heavily on American cop show clichés – based on the evidence of her debut, Stevens already has the goods for a strong career in psychological suspense.