Annie O’Sullivan is waiting…alone…at an Open House, hoping to make a sale when a white van pulls into the driveway. She thinks her luck is about to change when instead, it’s her life that changes – hideously, forever. Abducted and imprisoned for a year at a remote mountain cabin, she endures unthinkable acts at the hands of a man she calls The Freak. Not until after her escape, however, does she grasp the whole horror of what she’s been through – for though she’s managed to break free from The Freak, she cannot so easily untangle herself from her own memories. The story that unfolds, as Annie shares her living nightmare with her shrink, is of her struggle to piece her life together as the investigation continues its attempt to identify her captor.
Still Missing is one of those rare debut novels that knocks you off your feet. What drives the story – what makes it both chilling and universally fascinating – is Annie’s quest to find hope, healing and wholeness following a devastating trauma. A lesser protagonist would crumble, but Annie O’Sullivan manages…somehow… to hang on. Stevens uses shocking language to tell Annie tale, but – and I don’t say this lightly – it’s not gratuitous. Stevens’ trick of using Annie’s shrink sessions to tell much of the story is also masterfully done – so yes, the risky POV works. My only complaint (spoiler alert) is when Annie has sex with the lead investigator on her case. The act is supposed to show progress in Annie’s character development, proof that she can be intimate with a man again. But no – this is too cheap and easy. It also completely (and unsatisfactorily) deflates the element of romantic suspense that Stevens, until this point, nurtures exquisitely.
Nonetheless, if you have the stomach for it, Still Missing is an edgy, spell-binding tale you won’t want to put down.