Taylor Stevens has created a remarkable heroine in her debut novel. Vanessa “Michael” Munroe is a master at information. She is hired by clients who seek inside knowledge about governments, corporations and countries that would further their financial and personal goals. Raised by disinterested American missionary parents in central Africa, Vanessa was left alone to absorb the languages and customs of her surroundings. Her independence led her to employment with a local mercenary and it was with his group that she learned violence, corruption and survival.
Her life soon becomes a nightmare in Africa and she does what is necessary to escape and travels to the United States. Her gift of language and attention to detail is noticed while she is in college and this launches her career as an “Informationist”. Vanessa travels the world, blending in and extracting impossible and valuable information for her clients.
The main plot line of the book is Vanessa’s hunt for the missing step-daughter of a Texas oil tycoon, who coincidentally went missing where Vanessa grew up. Though not her typical assignment, she agrees to the job and returns to Africa. The search becomes much more dangerous than she anticipated, however, and Vanessa becomes the hunted – with no one to trust.
I am an avid mystery reader and this was intended as a light beach read. It was much more than that and I was riveted from the start. It is an intricate and fast paced novel that brings to mind Lisbeth Salander from the Millenium Trilogy by Steig Larsson. The damaged female protagonist may be the new vampire/zombie read, but author Taylor Stevens is a talented storyteller and I look forward to reading the next Vanessa Munroe book.