DiscoverPsychological Thriller

Stolen Truth

By

Loved it! 😍

When a woman discovers her baby and husband have gone missing, the hardest part is trying to make anyone believe they ever existed at all!

Synopsis

In the tradition of Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train and S. J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep, STOLEN TRUTH is a psychological thriller about family secrets and the scars they leave behind. This story places an unreliable narrator on an intimate stage, where she must fight to find the truth of what has happened to her—or admit that is all in her own mind.

Bree Michaelson wakes up one day feeling drugged and confused, to find her husband, Todd Armstrong, and her infant son, Noah, missing.

But why does no one believe her? Lacking witnesses to her pregnancy, a birth certificate to prove a child was born, or a marriage license to prove her invisible husband ever existed, Bree will find it impossible to get the help she so desperately needs to find her baby.

Nevertheless, in spite of suspicious friends, family, and authorities, Bree sets out to find Todd and Noah. Only when her sister commits her to a hospital psych ward that Bree begins to doubt her own story. In the past, she suffered from a false pregnancy. Is this an imagined recurrence?

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Henya Drescher for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.


Eager to get my hands on a great psychological thriller, I turned to Henya Drescher’s Stolen Truth, which documents a woman’s struggle to find her missing husband and newborn when no one believes her. The story touches on a number of chilling themes and kept me reading into the evening as I sought to piece the underlying story together. Well worth a look by interested readers.


Bree Michaelson wakes in a haze, unsure what’s going on. She realises that she’s slept for hours longer than she ought to have and yet her newborn, Noah, has not woken. When she goes to check on him, he’s not there. In fact, there is no sign of him whatsoever, including no baby clothes, furniture, or photos. Bree’s husband, Todd, is also gone, without a trace.


In a state of panic, Bree calls the police and demands that they come help. While she waits, the reader learns through Bree that Todd was a very secretive man and forced her to cut ties with everyone she knew, friends and family alike.  Noah was also born to a midwife, Connie, who had been staying with the couple. She, too, is missing.


When the local officer arrives, he does a cursory look, but nothing is adding up. There is no sign of anyone ever having lived there with Bree. The officer agrees to make some calls, but can promise nothing. Bree begins to question everything around her and cannot understand what’s going on. She remembers being pregnant and has the leaking breasts, as well as loose stomach, to show for it. 


As Bree begins an investigation on her own, she discovers that no one wants to help and that her own family does not believe her. Having been isolated from everyone, she does not appear to have anything to show for her time with Todd and Noah. The more she asks questions, the fewer answers emerge.


Coming to terms with her own mental health issues in the past, Bree must try to convince herself that she is not fabricating all of this, but an inexplicable victim. Bree will need to turn to the most unlikely source for help, as they may just be her last hope to prove that she’s telling the truth. Then again, what she discovers is equally as baffling!


Having never read anything by Henya Drescher before, I was eager to check out her writing. The premise of the story had me curious and I was hooked from the early chapters. Watching Bree Michaelson appear to swim upstream to prove herself is a wonderful theme throughout this piece, while the reader questions what us real and where the mind of a traumatized woman has filled in the missing pieces.


Bree Michaelson is a wonderfully complex character, whose story emerges throughout the development of the narrative. Not only does she have to deal with a baby who has gone missing, but she questions everything about the man who got her into this mess. Where does truth end and fallacy begin? Bree’s sordid past makes it harder for others to trust her, though she is determined to prove that she is of sound mind and that someone’s targeting her for reasons as yet unknown. 


Drescher does a wonderful job with her supporting characters, offering the reader a glimpse at a fabulous cross-section of people who help enrich the story. While some add only a small piece to the larger puzzle, others know Bree well and help coax out information key to the reader’s better understand of what’s taking place. The banter and interactions add much to the story and help make the plot even better.


The premise of the piece may not be entirely unique, but it was developed in such a way as to pull the reader in from the opening pages and leave them wondering. The latter portion of the book alone takes the reader down quite the rabbit hole, bringing things together in ways that few could have ever predicted. All signs of a masterful writer that can keep the reader from standing on solid ground. 


Drescher uses strong writing to string the reader along, setting the scene and then opening up many of the story’s hidden doors as the plot develops. This serves to keep the reader open their toes and guessing, even if the most likely answer is right before them. Use of different chapter lengths serves to keep the reader from getting into too much of a lull, mixing up the short bits to keep the momentum going and then adding longer an more detailed portions when the information is such that one has to keep going to see how it will play out. Strong characters and a narrative that takes things in many directions keeps things fresh throughout while always leaving the reader wondering if they missed something obvious, a la Sixth Sense. Drescher is masterful in her storytelling and I can only hope to find more of her work in the coming years.


Kudos, Madam Drescher, for such a captivating piece. I will be sure to recommend others try this novel to see what they think for themselves.


Reviewed by

I love to read and review all sorts of books. My passion is crime and thrillers, but there are so many other genres that pique my attention.

While I am not a full-time reader, I try to dedicate as much time to my passion as possible, as can be seen on my blog and Goodreads.

Synopsis

In the tradition of Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train and S. J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep, STOLEN TRUTH is a psychological thriller about family secrets and the scars they leave behind. This story places an unreliable narrator on an intimate stage, where she must fight to find the truth of what has happened to her—or admit that is all in her own mind.

Bree Michaelson wakes up one day feeling drugged and confused, to find her husband, Todd Armstrong, and her infant son, Noah, missing.

But why does no one believe her? Lacking witnesses to her pregnancy, a birth certificate to prove a child was born, or a marriage license to prove her invisible husband ever existed, Bree will find it impossible to get the help she so desperately needs to find her baby.

Nevertheless, in spite of suspicious friends, family, and authorities, Bree sets out to find Todd and Noah. Only when her sister commits her to a hospital psych ward that Bree begins to doubt her own story. In the past, she suffered from a false pregnancy. Is this an imagined recurrence?

Noah’s cries cut into my chest. My eyes well up, and my throat thickens. I run a hand along the back of my six-day-old baby’s silky, perfectly shaped head, fighting back a rush of sadness. His cries turn to whimpers and then silence.

I jolt awake.

My body breaks out in a cold sweat before I can identify the source of my unease. The first thing that reaches me is the sharp stench of fresh paint, as I struggle through a haze of consciousness, and with it, the feeling that something’s off. I strain my ears in the stillness that smothers the house. No cries from Noah are echoing down the hallway, no aroma of French roast brewing, and none of the usual noises from the kitchen.

The weak Berkshires sun filters through the sheer curtains, and the nightstand clock displays 1:00 p.m. in neon green.

What the hell?

Since giving birth, I’m in the habit of waking up at 6:00 a.m. to feed Noah. Why have I overslept?

I bolt up and recoil from the flare of pain in my head.

“Todd?” I call out—my voice quivers.

My pulse races. My mouth is dry. I raise my head again. Dizziness and nausea hit me. I collapse back on the pillow and wait for the roiling in my stomach to subside.

My mind is working overtime. Why did Todd and Connie let me oversleep, knowing how anxious I am about Noah? Since yesterday, he’s had a rash and a high fever. I researched his symptoms online. While rashes don’t indicate a dangerous condition, high temperatures are a cause to see a doctor. I’d wanted to rush him to the hospital last night. What happened?

I try again. “Todd! Connie?”

From the open window comes the chirp of birds.

I make another effort to get out from under the blanket, but my head spins, and the floor ripples beneath me. I lose my footing, landing with a bang on my knees. The pain is instant. The floor is cold as I crawl to the bathroom, my scalp damp from the effort. Please, please don’t let me throw up before I get there.

I inhale deeply. What the hell is wrong with me?

I struggle to remember last night. Todd and I ate dinner in front of the fireplace. He made a salad and broiled chicken. That’s all I recall; the rest buried in my groggy head. But now, inching forward on my knees, all I want is to get to my baby right away.

Where is Connie? In the kitchen preparing Noah’s formula?

At last, I manage to make my way to the bathroom before vomiting. Then, still, on all fours, I struggle back to get my robe at the foot of the bed. Holding fast to the edge of the mattress, I steady myself, then stumbling to the door, I jerk it open and barge into the hallway, ignoring nausea and fatigue. Odors of paint and bleach get stronger. Alarm works its way into my bloodstream.

“Todd!” I scream into the empty hall. “Connie!” My voice echoes lifelessly off the walls. Maybe this is just a nightmare?

With shaky legs, I slog down the hall, one foot in front of the other.

I shove open the door to Noah’s room. A gust of wind blows in through the open window overlooking the backyard.

Stunned, I try to make sense of the scene in front of me. I shut my eyes tight, draw a calming breath, and then open them again.

A full-blown panic forms in my throat, exploding in a scream.

Noah’s crib and dresser are gone. No trace of his little clothes—the closet is open and empty. His room is bare, except for a rocking chair. Even the color of the walls has changed, from blue to white. Despite the newly painted room, the bleach, and the missing furniture, Noah’s scent still lingers in the air. A small part of my mind tells me I can’t smell my baby with the bleach and fresh paint, but I do.

Where Noah’s brown crib stood, the musical carousel revolving, its happy, colorful faces smiling at my little boy, there is now only a blank wall. My gaze moves to the corner of the room where the wooden rocking chair still stands. I can almost feel my baby in my arms as I rock him to sleep. But he is not here.

I was bedridden most of my pregnancy, so Todd picked out all Noah’s baby things. A comforter adorned with a woodland scene, the stuffed blue bunny with its soft ears, and the teddy bears' diaper bag. Now they’re all gone. And so is Noah.

I move my hand to my abdomen and then to my engorged, leaking breasts. Where are you, my little man?

Stumbling out of the empty nursery, I force my legs from room to room, each step heavier than the last, each door representing a new hope.

I push open Connie’s door, which gives a squeak. The room is spotless, the bed made, complete with tight hospital corners. But her belongings are gone—the room stripped. Even her bathroom is spotless. But her scent lingers, lavender and something sweet, like bubblegum.

My heart tightens. I’m accustomed to Todd disappearing for a day or two without explanation, but where’s Connie? She’s always here. She delivered Noah. Then she stayed on. Uncommunicative and hovering, Connie is efficient but not comforting. But now her absence unsettles me.

As if in a dream, I descend the stairs on rubbery legs. The kitchen and living room appear undisturbed. The heavy silence weighs me down. I pinch myself, needing to wake up from this nightmare. I’m not dreaming.

Hyperventilating now, I make my way to the garage. My candy red ’65 Mustang, complete with silver rally stripes, still sits there, but Todd’s Toyota is gone. And in the middle of the driveway, the only thing left from Connie’s rusted Jeep is an oil stain.

I try to convince myself that she must have gone out with Noah and will return soon and that Todd has gone to work. But I know it’s wishful thinking. They’ve never left me alone. Something is wrong. One of them has always been close by, at times, making me feel resentful.

Two days earlier, over dinner, I said something to Todd that I’d been repeating since Noah was born. “Still, I don’t feel comfortable having Connie live with us.”

“Just a few more days. You can use the help.”

 “I can easily manage taking care of my baby.” I tried to keep the sharpness from my voice.

He remained quiet, eyes glued to his grilled salmon. We spent the rest of the meal without another word.

Now, the late November wind bites into my skin. “Todd.”

I wait for a moment.

“Connie.” My throat burns.

Thunder rumbles as I make my way along the side of the house to the backyard. My breathing is ragged. I hardly have enough oxygen to call Todd’s name again.

Pushing the pain in my lower belly out of my mind, I make my way back to the front of the house, where I stand in the middle of the driveway and slowly make a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree turn. And then again. And then again. Emptiness is all around—just the rasp of my breathing and the trees swaying in the wind.

For a moment, I think I hear Noah crying in the distance. An unmistakable sound. A noise encoded in a mother to hear through walls—or through miles of wooded terrain. My breasts leak in response. Ignoring my aching body, I dash into the woods toward what I’m certain is the sound of my baby crying. I’m coming, Noah. I’m coming.

A happier picture buds in my imagination. Connie has taken Noah for a walk. I gain strength from it.

The cry sounds again. Panting and clawing my way through thick bushes, thorns snagging my robe, I head deeper into the woods, hopping over tree roots and rocks and splashing through patches of mud. Connie and my baby are out here. I trip and fall, scraping my palms and already throbbing knees. Unable to rise, I claw wildly at a vine.

Wheezing, I manage to get to my feet, each gasp of air burning my throat.

Just then, the baby’s cries stop.

A twig snaps. Is someone behind me? A sharp tingle of fear crawls up my neck. I whirl. Nothing but the soggy crush of leaves under my feet—nothing but the distant crack of thunder.

           The first buds of hope die. No Noah. No Todd. No Connie. Just a chorus of trees rustling in the wind that, to my ears, sounds more like hissing.

***

Against the wind, I make my way back toward the house. Maybe Todd left a note on the fridge door. A little spark of hope ignites in my heart. As I approach the front door, I see something small and white on the ground.

Amidst the wet leaves, there is one of Noah’s white socks. I grab the tiny, soiled sock and hold it to my nose, inhaling my child’s sweet scent—a vivid image of Noah lying in his crib flashes before my eyes.

Collapsing, I fold myself into a tight ball and let out an animal howl, thinking how cold my sweet little boy will be without his sock.

Eventually, the shudders that rack my body subside, and, with Noah’s sock still clutched in my fist, I limp through the front door to the kitchen.

There is no note.

Again, the world is spinning around me, and I take the stairs up to our bedroom on all fours. Bracing myself against the wall, I rise and make my way to Todd’s closet, which only yesterday was filled with neatly hung clothes and his shoes precisely lined up on the floor. Now, it is empty. With jerky motions, I yank out bureau drawers, confirming what I already know.

I’m running different scenarios through my head. Nothing makes sense. Back downstairs in the laundry room, I dig through a pile of dirty clothes. There is no trace of anyone’s clothes but mine.

I fumble my phone from my purse, which hangs in the kitchen by the back door and punch in Todd’s cell. Pacing five steps to the sink, four to the table, then back to the sink, I listen to a voice message. The number you have dialed is no longer in service.

Next, I try Todd’s real-estate office in Albany, but I get the same message. And to top it all off, I can’t reach Connie. Her cell is disconnected, too.

Where are they? Noah needs to see a doctor. What if his condition has worsened? I can’t bear the thought. Then I realize something: stripped of Todd’s and Connie’s and Noah’s things, the house looks as if no one else lives here but me. And it finally dawns on me that Todd is not going to call, explaining he took Noah for a ride and that he’s sorry he caused me grief.

And with that understanding, I dial the Becket Police Department.

 “My baby has disappeared.” I fight to keep my voice calm. Tears burn. The words rush from my mouth as I tell the officer what happened.

“Can you repeat that? I’m having a difficult time understanding you.” The police officer sounds bored, as if disappearing babies are a daily occurrence.

Between sobs, I do my best to explain. I give him my name and Todd’s name.

“An officer will be there shortly,” he says.

“How fast? This is an emergency.”

“About twenty minutes.”

My shoulders sag with the tiniest bit of relief. Help is coming.

I begin counting the minutes.


About the author

HENYA DRESCHER was born in France to Polish parents and raised in Israel. She is published in Medium and several magazines. She holds a BA in English Literature. Aside from writing, her passions include lifting weights and driving long distances. She and her husband reside in New York City. view profile

Published on March 18, 2021

Published by Black Rose Writing

80000 words

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Reviewed by