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Review: Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

chevy stevens still missing Review: Still Missing by Chevy Stevens


I have to admit that I shirk from books that tend towards gratuity in their subject matter, and which are unrelenting in their approach to violence and misery. Its not that I have a thing against dark themes (I have enough Russian classics lining my shelves to prove that), but its the need to wallow and gambol in this sort of stuff that doesnt especially appeal to me. If a book is described as visceral or horrific, then its probably not for a reader like me. Theres a reason I eschew crime novels and thrillers in favour of mysteries: Id much rather figure out who dunnit than read in explicit detail how-dunnit. Theres something awfully discomforting about reading something in which a (usually female) character is subjected to all manner of horrendous, extended wrongs, and honestly, I feel a creeping sense of perversion when I do so.'Still Missing, the debut from Chevy Stevens is such a novel. And while it has its merits, its hard to shake that feeling that this is unashamedly, unrelentingly an exploitative tale. I wont deny that its a page-turner, but its hard to put this down without feeling a little worse for wear.


Annie OSullivan is a hard-working realtor who has thrown herself in her work as a way to overcome her trailer park origins. Tough-talking and sassy, Annie is pointedly the antithesis of the victim archetype. But things take a shocking turn when Annie is kidnapped. Annies captor, whom she calls The Freak, spends the better part of a year tormenting, beating, and raping his victim. Through his strict routines, violent punishments, and sociopathic manner, Annies captor cows her into submission. Annie finally escapes, but upon returning home is unable to live a normal existence. Her every moment is fraught with fear, suspicion, and confusion, and her ability to live her live is so stultified that its as though, as the name of the book suggests, shes still missing. But while Annies friends and family oh-so-sympathetically put her daily struggle down to PTSD and residual paranoia, Annie begins to wonder whether her kidnapping was perhaps orchestrated by someone close to her.

My thoughts

Still Missing is told as a series of reflections, with each chapter comprising a confessional soliloquy from Annie to her shrink. As such, were frequently subjected to the contrast of the once strong and winsome Annie against that of the broken, shattered woman she has become. But the execution doesnt quite work. Stevens attempts not only to contrast temporal differences, but also differences in terms of voice. Old Annie is calm and and collected, whereas new Annie is, presumably, meant to be a world-weary and wary individual. This is done by peppering the prose with vituperation and harsh colloquialisms, something that makes Annie sound more like a weather-beaten roadside diner waitress than a successful professional woman. I understand the juxtaposition that Stevens is aiming for, but its perhaps not as effective as she might have intended.

In addition to the voice issue, Still Missing also gets a bit indulgent when it comes to all things exposition. Not only is Annie subjected (in great narrative detail) to the most horrific and humiliating of actions, but we get to see each action analysed and reanalysed as though its the subject of a Freudian dissertation. I think the point here was to humanise Annies captor, but its one that falls short of the mark.

As Still Missing traces a narrative thats both past and present, its only inevitable that the two meet at some point, and that the novel proceed from there. And structurally, this is where the problems of this novel are most evident. 'The first half of the novel works to contrast the then and now Annies, presenting us with what is structurally a sort of circular narrative. But once that circle is broken and the plot continues beyond the things that Annie has been recounting, it all gets a little weird and wonky. Rather than focusing on Annies daily struggles as she attempts to convalesce, or on the claustrophobic terror of her kidnapping, were instead given a second kidnapping attempt and a sloppy mystery involving Annies nearest and dearest. While the notion that the culprit behind the kidnapping is someone Annie knows personally is reasonable enough, it just doesnt gel with the set-up weve been given, and its almost as though the second part of the book has been tacked on as an afterthought.

When things are finally resolved, it all happens in a bizarre showdown that well and truly lacks any sort of narrative veracity. The character motivations that are trotted outand theyre trotted out rather explicitly and with all of the subtlety of a sledgehammertowards the end of the novel to justify the preceding events are huh?-inducing. The logic behind them is hard to grasp, and its hard to believe that the characters in question would do the things theyre accused of for these flimsy, nonsensical reasons (sorry for all the non-specific descriptions, but Im trying to be a nice and spoiler-free blogger). Theres just so much here that feels gratuitous and manipulative: in addition to the kidnapping itself, this book involves incest, dead babies, rape and murder, family double-crossings, loan sharks, law enforcing professions who take advantage of their position of power, and myriad alcoholic adults. The last chapter and epilogue are the final nail in this narrative coffin, relegating a book that initially sets out to be a sharp and challenging account of PTSD into something more fit for a made-for-television script.


To its credit, Still Missing moves at a cracking pace, and its certainly worthy of the single sitting label. I know its received extremely favourable reviews elsewhere, and personal preferences aside I can see why. But if, like me, you struggle with books that involve the extensive, gratuitous abuse and humiliation of women (and men, of course, but its women who are the ones who suffer in this book), it may not be for you. Theres unflinching (such as Neil Crosss Captured), and theres exploitative and voyeuristic, and this to me falls under the latter.

Rating: star Review: Still Missing by Chevy Stevensstar Review: Still Missing by Chevy Stevensblankstar Review: Still Missing by Chevy Stevensblankstar Review: Still Missing by Chevy Stevensblankstar Review: Still Missing by Chevy Stevens (okay)

With thanks to Meryl L Moss Media Relations for the review copy

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