Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Informationist by Taylor Stevens

She was going home. Home. Whatever that was supposed to mean.

Taylor Stevens’s debut novel, The Informationist, is a fast paced mystery thriller which carefully mimics the style of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with a dash of Robert Ludlum thrown in for good measure.  Stevens’s heroine is 20-something Vanessa “Michael” Munroe, a brunette waif with a motorcycle and a chip on her shoulder. Does this sound familiar folks?  Although Munroe shows ample similarities to Lisbeth Salander, Stevens skillfully dodges completely copying Stieg Larsson’s infamous protagonist.
The plot is driven by an assignment given to Munroe by friend Kate Breeden.  Emily, the stepdaughter of millionaire businessman Richard Burbank has disappeared somewhere in Munroe’s birthplace of Africa.  After some coaxing, Munroe travels back to her homeland in search of the missing girl.  This is where the novel gets interesting and themes of espionage come into play.  Stevens puts Munroe on a world stage having her travel from the United States to Germany, and then to Africa where a backwards government steps in front of Munroe’s plans to uncover the truth behind Emily’s disappearance.
Like Lisbeth Salander, Munroe insists that she works alone, but her cool demeanor in countered by the warm charming Miles Bradford, who has been sent by Burbank to keep an eye on Munroe and the investigation.  Stevens then takes us on the well-worn story of girl meets boy, girl drugs boy, boy has to save girl from terrorists.  I think that’s how it usually goes...right?
Stevens’s strength is her ability to convey the atmosphere of Africa.  Raised in The Children of God, Stevens was denied an education beyond the sixth grade and eventually had to flee Africa as a teenager.  Much of this story is retold through Munroe’s own experiences and I suspect The Informationist was partially an attempt to relieve some of the author’s bitterness related to her childhood.
Although sometimes confusing and a bit predictable, The Informationist ends up being a well rounded debut novel.  Those who enjoyed the novel will be pleased to know that the its sequel, The Innocent, will be available in December.

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