Sunday, May 6, 2012

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

On the morning that will change her life forever 32 year old real estate agent Annie O' Sullivan puts on her favorite yellow suit, kisses her golden retriever, Emma, goodbye, and heads out the door with three goals in mind--sell a house, forget the argument she had with her
mother regarding the return of her cappuccino machine, and be on time for dinner with her boyfriend, Luke, to try to make up for being so focused on her career lately.

After the open house, as she is preparing to leave, a man in a tan van drives up. Annie hopes it is a prospective buyer arriving late; instead he is Annie's worst nightmare. He abducts her, and this is just the start of a hellish year Annie will spend being held captive in a secluded log cabin with the man she calls "The Freak."

He forces her to strip for a romantic candlelit bath with rose petals floating in the water, and as he shaves her legs he tells her "knowing someone has life-and-death power over you can be the most erotic experience of your life."

Annie's days are so tightly regulated that even the slightest deviation provokes punishment. For example, when she sneaks an unscheduled bathroom break, "The Freak" forces her to drink the water in the toilet and then brush her teeth twenty times.

"The Freak" is a volatile and unpredictable man; sometimes lashing out at Anne in a rage over his impotence, and at other times he lies in bed and cuddles with her like a lover and talks about what kind of fruit he likes best.

"Reading Time" is the only tolerable part of Annie's day, when "The Freak" allows her to read aloud to him and they discuss literature, it is the only time Annie ever feels even a little like herself. Then she discovers that she is pregnant, which is exactly what "The Freak" wanted-- whenever she got her period he would punish her by making her take showers so cold her skin turned blue. But the baby dies when it only a few weeks old because "The Freak" refused to allow medical care.

Six weeks later, when "The Freak" is chopping wood and talking about having another baby, Annie loses control, seizes the axe, and kills him and makes her way back to civilization.

Annie tries hard to pick up the pieces and return to her old life, but as the police investigation progresses, another attack on Annie, foiled by her dog, leads her to suspect her abduction by "The Freak" might not have been so random after all. And Annie has to ask herself who would benefit most from her disappearance? Who amongst her friends and family would betray her in such a shocking and brutal manner?

This was a very interesting, frightening, and disturbing book to read. Each chapter is told in the form of a session with Annie's therapist, though only Annie speaks. And I thought the author did a great job portraying the difficulty and anguish Annie experienced while trying to readjust to freedom and return to her old life. The only quibble I have is that Annie's affair with a cop felt tacked on, as though it were inserted only to add consensual sex to balance out the rape and sexual abuse she suffered during captivity, but perhaps this was intended to show Annie taking back control over her life and body.

This is the second book I have read by this author and I look forward to more.

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