Books Magazine

Still Missing

By Drharrietd @drharrietd

Still-missing-beth-gutcheon-paperback-cover-art‘Haunting, harrowing and highly effective… a stunning shocker of an ending…It strings out the suspense to the almost unendurable.’ Not my words, but those of Publishers Weekly, quoted on the Persephone Books website. First published in 1981 Still Missing is, I think, the most modern of Persephone's republications. In case you are one of the few people who missed the flurry of reviews that greeted its reappearance in gray covers a couple of years ago, Still Missing is the story of single parent Susan Selky, 'bright, loyal, stubborn, shy', who every day sends her responsible seven-year-old son Alex off to walk a block to his school. Only, on the day when the novel begins, he never gets there, and indeed disappears without trace. The rest of the novel, which covers the subsequent year in Susan's life, shows with painful clarity her mental state, as the police investigation gradually winds down, her friends and supporters lose interest, and calls from psychics and cranks continue to confuse the issue. If you haven't read it, you may conceivably have seen the 1983 film, Without a Trace (link contains spoilers). 

I was so looking forward to reading this novel. Every review I've read has raved about it, so surely I would too. I wish I could, but for some reason I'm holding back. I'm not saying it's a bad novel, far from it, and of course I had, and have, huge sympathy for Susan, or indeed for any mother whose child has been abducted. For a contemporary parallel you only have to think of Madeleine McCann and the agony of her parents, mistrusted, suspected, criticised -- the sightings -- the publicity, good and bad. But somehow reading of Susan's relentless misery, page after page, began to wear on me rather, and I was glad to reach the end -- which, by the way, I would not exactly agree with Publishers Weekly  in describing as a 'stunning shocker'. I almost feel I must apologize for bucking the trend here -- but I have to say I much preferred Clint Eastwood's 2008 film Changeling, which deals with a similar situation though it takes off in a different direction. 

Have you read it? What did you think?


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