Review: “The Informationist,” Taylor Stevens

Pros: Fantastic characters
Cons: Gets a bit dark
Rating: 5 out of 5

Vanessa Michael Munroe (she goes by Michael most often, and is androgynous enough to pass for either gender as she wishes) has a skill for learning the ins and outs of a country, and she gets paid to compile information for businesses, typically. This time someone has a very different mission for her: to track down what happened to a girl who went missing four years earlier. Everyone believes Emily is dead, but her father wants to be sure. Munroe isn’t interested, but the money on offer is too good to pass up. It seems that someone, however, definitely does not want Munroe to succeed. She also has an unwanted tag-along: her client insists on sending Miles Bradford with her.

 

I received a later book for review in Taylor Stevens’s series, The Mask, not long ago and absolutely loved it. It prompted me to track down book one, The Informationist, which if anything is even better. The major backdrop for this tale is Africa, particularly places like Cameroon. As it turns out, Munroe has a lot of experience with the local cultures already–maybe too much, because she has her own enemies as well as possible allies there. Unfortunately, by the time she realizes that someone is setting them up, there are an awful lot of suspects.

Following all of the deep connections between characters was fascinating. I loved watching Munroe–who is a pro at manipulating people–run into troubles from her past. We get a great look at what molded her into the person that she is today. This is where the material gets pretty dark, so if that will bother you, best to go read another book. All of the people Munroe encounters have a surprising amount of depth and detail put into them. It’s a mind-bogglingly rich panoply of locations, characters, history, danger, and more. There’s a great deal of tension in this book. It pulled me right in and swept me along, and I’m going to have to go looking for the books that go in-between The Informationist and The Mask.

The plot involves some very impressive strategizing, a whiff of betrayal, an incredibly strong portrayal of place, and, well, part of it caused me to shed a few tears. That’s a great way to tell that something is emotionally tense! I was glued to the pages.

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