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 Lecter—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 juxtaposes 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.