The subject of abductions and kidnappings has been the central plot theme of hundreds of novels spanning the centuries of fiction. With that type of historical perspective, what could debut author Chevy Stevens possibly create that would make Still Missing a unique entry into this genre?
She must be doing something right, since Still Missing was just awarded Debut Novel of the Year by the International Thriller Writers Association. Still Missing not only grips the reader on the very first page but keeps the interest level up with a novel that approaches the formulaic but always veers off into unexpected directions.
When young realtor Annie Sullivan is showing an open-house property to the final prospective buyer of the day, she has no idea that this man has much more on his mind than a new home purchase. This seemingly harmless stranger attacks Annie, and she wakes up tied to a bed in a cabin house --- having no idea how she got there or where she is.
Her abductor, who Annie tags with the moniker ‘The Freak’ --- seems to know everything about her, and his plan to kidnap her apparently had been long in development. He is in possession of a personal photo of Annie’s, and she has no idea where he could have obtained it. The Freak has very strict rules, and unlike other famous captors in suspense literature - “The Collector” in the John Fowles novel or Jame Gumb in Silence Of the Lambs - he does not wish any harm to Annie. However, he does have high expectations as to how she is to present herself.
The Freak bathes and clothes Annie, gives her daily chores to do, and personally picks out her book collection (he expects her to be well-read). Unfortunately for Annie, he also wants her to give birth for him, and the nightly rapes are a horror she quickly becomes used to. Numbing herself to these horrific rituals, Annie attempts to go along with The Freak’s wishes as the punishment often involves beatings. She eventually becomes pregnant, and The Freak goes to extraordinary measures to ensure the baby is born in the perfect way he has visualized.
To go any deeper into this part of the tale would reveal too many plot twists. Chevy Stevens excels at the descriptions and thought process of the two main characters throughout this section of Still Missing. Where she really takes it to the next level is in the second part of the book. Annie escapes her captor and returns to her life after a long year in captivity. The rest of the novel seems almost surreal, making the reader begin to revisit what has apparently occurred to Annie up to this point and try to figure out what was real and what might have been imagination. Most importantly, we watch Annie evolve as a complex character. Part of her is ‘still missing’ after the tragic events she has undergone, and her search for the reasons behind her abduction may reveal answers she is not prepared for.
Still Missing succeeds on nearly every level and sparks a talented new voice in the crowded field of suspense fiction. Looking forward to her next effort!