Chevy Stevens was, at one point in her life, a realtor. She said she would stand around in open homes, alone, waiting for prospective buyers. During this down time her imagination would run wild and she would dream up horrible circumstances, like her own abduction. From those nightmares came her debut novel Still Missing.
It is described as a “not-to-be-missed thriller.” As a thriller, it does somethings very well; it is haunting, intense, and gripping. As so, it is an engaging thriller. I read through the chapters quickly and was eager to find out what happens next. But this book was also twisted, warped, and horrifying, and therefore, not worth reading. But before I explain why, let me lay out the plot.
Before the story even gets going, the reader learns that Annie has survived. Every horrible event is over and she is safe. The last major hurdle for her is to heal, and so the first page picks up with a very bitter and guarded Annie talking to yet another shrink. She has a hard time sleeping, all her previous relationships are fractured; her experience has left her badly damaged. And understandably so. Yet, she wants to move on. She wants to rebuild her life and is willing to rehash everything to her shrink to process everything.
She was abducted by a prospective buyer at an open home she was hosting. She was drugged and taken to an unknown location and kept in a heavily secured cabin. Her abductor played out his sick fantasy of domestic bliss. She would keep house by cooking, cleaning, and child rearing. He would provide for his family by hunting, chopping wood, and protecting her from all the evils of the modern world. During these moments where The Freak (Annie’s name for him) acted as if this life were normal, he could be disarmingly friendly. But when Annie crossed him or broke a rule, such as using the bathroom when it was not her predetermined time to do so, he would become insanely violent.
And so Annie was kept for a year. At certain moments she accepted her fate, and even depended on The Freak for companionship. In other moments she wanted nothing more than his death and to run to the comfort of her mother’s arms. Even though the reader knows Annie escapes this hell, it is still heart-pounding to read the events in the cabin. It is especially suspenseful in the lead up to her escape. And if the story were to stop with her escape it would have been a much better story.
Instead, the author decided more must be better. She forces Annie through truly unbelievable twists. The whole abduction, captivity, and escape are terrible. Terrible in a good way because the reader will care about Annie, and will hope for the best for her. The reader will root for her to heal. And the reader will accept the events of the novel because they are what are put forth as Annie’s experiences, no matter how tragic. But then the story continues 50 more pages. As the twists become increasingly more horrific they become more absurd. The story loses its believable tone and the suspense and thrill of the book is lost.
The entire book is told by Annie talking to her shrink. (From an academic perspective it is quite fascinating to read chapter after chapter where a major character doesn’t say one word.) Each chapter starts out with a brief, one-sided discussion and then Annie delves into flashbacks to tell the story. Annie describes the times she is raped. She also describes in awkward detail (she is talking to her shrink) and intimate, and wholly unbelievable, episode she has with another man soon after her escape. There is also a lot of foul language, including the Big Ef.
Don’t believe the tremendous hype this book received. Maybe for her next book, if she is able to retain her thriller style but focus her plot, Chevy Stevens will write a good story. But this one isn’t it.