Fresh Blood

Name: Chevy Stevens

Title of Book: Still Missing

' of those books that you dont want to read too fast because it brings you closer to the end - and you just dont want it to end.'

On the day she was abducted, Annie O’Sullivan, a 32-year-old realtor, had three goals - sell a house, forget about a recent argument with her mother and be on time for dinner with her ever-patient boyfriend. The open house is slow, but when her last visitor pulls up in a van as she's about to leave, Annie thinks it just might be her lucky day after all.

Interwoven with the story of the year Annie spent as the captive of a psychopath in a remote mountain cabin, which unfolds through sessions with her psychiatrist, is a second narrative recounting events following her escape - her struggle to piece her shattered life back together and the ongoing police investigation into the identity of her captor.

This is one of those books that you dont want to read too fast because it brings you closer to the end - and you just dont want it to end.

Although a crime thriller, this also sees a crime from a different perspective. That is from the victim'd perspective, after the crime. With so many crime novels the intention is to catch a killer, but with Still Missing there is a victim and you begin to realise how easy it is to forget what happens to them once the perpetrator has been caught.

I think that Stevens has dealt with the emotional side extremely well, so well, in fact, that sometimes I actually felt that I was almost reading a diary or personal letters rather than a fictional book.

The thought process and reasoning of Annie, the woman who has been abducted, feels very realistic and it does often make you think 'what would I do if it were me'. The story is tinged with moments of sadness, and it is not oine for those looking for happy endings! But in my eyes, that is what gives it that certain 'edge'.

Interwoven into this is a well planned and executed plot and, although the number of characters is limited, they have been given great thought and are only brought into the story if they are of direct relevance.

This is an excellent first novel and I am already looking forward to her next book - which, unfortunately, I will have to wait 6 months for...

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) How would you classify your writing, and do you consciously try to write to a certain style or genre?
When I started STILL MISSING I had no concept of genre and was simply telling the story that came to me. As the years went by and I kept cutting out any boring parts, I ended up with a thriller. Recently I was on a panel for mystery writers and when I looked up the difference between a thriller and a mystery, I learned in a thriller you’re trying to stop something from happening and in a mystery you already know what happened. There are elements of both in STILL MISSING, but I classify myself as a thriller writer.

I don’t try to write in a particular style. I just tell the story in the way that feels natural to me. That tends to be fast-paced as I get bored easily! I try to write the story as though I’m telling it to a friend.
2) What type of crime novels do you like to read? Do you prefer series or standalone?
I don’t have a preference, but it‘s nice when you like a character to continue on with them in other books, especially if they grow and change in each one.
3) So many crime novels stop once the crime has been solved whereas this had a different perspective and deals with the impact of the crime and the aftermath. Did you speak to many victims to get their views and opinions as the emotions seemed very realistic?
I didn’t speak to any victims of violence, or abduction, about this story. I did a little online research regarding Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and the five stages of grief, but most of Annie’s emotions come from my own life experiences and imagination.
4) Do you think all the media coverage of recent abductions (and subsequent releases) has helped propel the storyline? Did these stories help you with your own storyline ideas?
I started STILL MISSING in 2005, which was before any of the recent high- profile cases and I avoided reading about them while I was editing the book because I wanted everything to come from my own imagination and instincts.
5) The details of Annie’s abuse and ‘The Freak’s’ abusing and bizarre nature are startlingly told, without pulling any punches. Were you worried that people might flinch away from reading Annie’s account or did you believe the reading public would want to know everything about Annie’s strange ‘marriage’?
There were times I was worried it might be too real for some people, but I felt I needed to be honest about what would happen in this situation. I tried to be careful to walk the line between authentic and gratuitous, to not be so “real” that it was offensive, but I needed to be truthful to the story.
6) The book starts after Annie’s escape. Why did you decide to chronicle Annie’s abduction in retrospect, rather than in ‘real time’?
It wasn’t so much a conscious choice as just how the story came to me. When I started mentally playing with the premise, I knew that she was home. I heard Annie’s voice telling the story to her therapist and when I started writing, I began with her first session. For me, it wasn’t the actual abduction that fascinated me, but her recovery. It was the after effects of crime that I wanted to explore. If I’d told the story in real time I don’t believe it would’ve been possible to show the same insights.
7) With the book based on your worst fears as a realtor, was writing this book at all cathartic for you?
It wasn’t cathartic because of the real estate connection, that was just a starting off point, but the book did end up being a great way to channel my emotions. I grew up as a child of an alcoholic father, so when I wrote about Annie’s pain and her recovery--and her anger--I was able to let go of my own.
8) Will any of the characters, for example the detective Gary, return, or will the novel be a stand alone?
I don’t have any plans at the moment to bring back Annie or Gary, but my second novel, NEVER KNOWING, has the same therapist, who is called Nadine. Sara, the main character in NEVER KNOWING, has a totally different dynamic with the therapist, so it was interesting to see how that shaped the story.
9) Who would be your dream cast of movie actors for an adaptation of your story?
Any actor will bring their own personality to a movie, so it will be fun to see how they make the characters come to life. I think Natalie Portman would make a great Annie and I could also see George Clooney as Gary. I’d love Meryl Streep to play the therapist!
10) Without giving away the plot, which book included your favourite plot twist of all time?
I can’t think of a book right now, but the movie The Sixth Sense floored me.
11) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
Silence of the Lambs was great. There’s a case where the actor, Anthony Hopkins, created such an amazing character that you can’t think of Hannibal as anyone else.
12) Would you describe yourself as a crime fiction fan in general and, if so, which authors do you most admire and why?
I’m a fan of all books. If it has a great story and riveting characters, it doesn’t matter to me what genre it is. I love many authors, but mostly the ones who take risks, who step outside of the box and really make me feel something. If I had to pick one I’d say Ed McBain because he was so prolific.
13) What is your favourite read crime of all time?
I loved Ed McBain’s 87th precinct novels. Actually, I thought all his books were fantastic. Lawrence Sanders and Michael Connelly are also two favourites.