‘There was nothing in life that Susan Selky could have done to prepare for the breathtaking impact of losing her son.’
That’s not a spoiler; it’s on the first page of Still Missing, a book first published in 1981. Susan waves as her six-year-old son Alex turns the corner before walking the two blocks to school. He never arrives and has apparently vanished without trace. The missing child is a theme that never fails to harrow, being every parent’s nightmare, and there are many fictional works on the subject. One thinks immediately of Marghanita Laski’s Little Boy Lost, The Child in Time by Ian McEwan, and of countless mystery stories. The fear goes deeper than modern fiction, way back into fairy tale and folklore: Hansel and Gretel, children stolen away by gypsies, even by fairies or the Erlkönig.
In Still Missing we suffer with Susan (and with the policeman in charge of the case) as she copes with her devastating loss, police camping out in her house, media attention and the shocking realisation that the world is not as good a place as she had believed. Worse comes when the case is closed and Susan refuses to give up hope although everyone, including her estranged husband, tells her that she should start to move on. As if! It’s a good book, which I found gripping; nearing the end, I read faster and faster, hoping that little Alex would be found alive and well. I do question, though, whether it really deserved to be reprinted by Persephone? I can’t see that it’s a better book than, say, Jodi Picoult might write on the same subject.