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Categories: True Crime
Publisher: RosettaBooks | Date published: 02/01/2001


Missing is a true story. In retelling it, writer Thomas Hauser did not need to novelize it. Using the facts alone, the book unfolds with the breathtaking suspense and intrigue of a fully imagined political thriller. Missing explores the fate of a young American journalist named Charles Horman who, living in Chile in 1973 just before the overthrow of the country's Marxist president Salvatore Allende, discovered evidence of the United States' involvement in an impending right-wing coup to overthrow Allende. The story takes on a new significance now, as the now-aged general who overthrew the Allende regime, Augusto Pinochet, is facing punishment for his actions. What makes the story of Missing so frightening and horrifying is that Horman was arrested by Chilean soldiers and never again seen alive by his family. American operatives, it seems, had a hand in his brutal murder. Charles Horman was an American, a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker who had traveled to Chile in the early 1970s to explore a country undergoing significant changes under its Marxist president, Salvatore Allende. In the course of his research he seems to have uncovered information about CIA involvement in a plot to overthrow Allende. The coup took place, with Gen. Augusto Pinochet taking over as dictator and ordering the mass arrest of thousands of dissidents and suspected opponents. Charles Horman was one of these people, dragged from his home as the American embassy refused him help. His wife Joyce, who was with him in Chile, and his family never saw him alive again. Chilean security police murdered him, though they never admitted it. Horman's father, Ed, a patriotic American businessman, traveled to Santiago, where officials of the American embassy, led by the ambassador himself, offered to help him search for the son he believed had simply disappeared. The same embassy officials knew that Charles Horman was dead, even as they were "helping" his father, and when Ed Horman learned of this duplicity he turned his anger on his own countrymen. Published in 1978, five years after Pinochet took over Chile, Missing is a harrowing tale, a real-life modern tragedy that reads like a thriller. It is an explosive story, touching upon political matters that are sensitive to this day. Hauser calmly lays out the story, examining the facts as well as mysterious elements such as the arrival in Chile of a friend of Charles Horman and their visit, a day before the coup, to the seaside town of Viņa del Mar. What did they know? When did they know it? These are the answers Thomas Hauser searches for amid the breathtaking suspense of Missing.

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