Pros: Fascinating suspense with unusual cultural notes
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The Mask: A Vanessa Michael Munroe Novel, by Taylor Stevens, is a delightful discovery for me–and one that will send me off looking to read earlier books in the series (if you include a novella, this is book six). Despite not having that background I found The Mask to be very readable.
Vanessa Michael Munroe is spending some time with her lover, Bradford, who’s looking into a case of corporate espionage for a Japanese firm. When Bradford is framed for murder, Vanessa needs to take his place so she can figure out what’s going on and how to prove his innocence. The problem is, she doesn’t just have to wade through a corporation and find a spy–she has to navigate her way around Japanese culture and traditions in order to do it. By passing herself off as Michael Munroe (she finds it easy to make herself look male) she steps in as Bradford’s replacement, re-tracing his steps in order to figure out who wanted him gone.
I love Munroe as a character. She has a great deal of personality, and she’s emotionally damaged in unusual ways. Seeing her slip comfortably into the portrayal of a different gender is also unusual, and adds to a very interesting story. The number of twists and turns kept me guessing throughout the whole book. I should note that there’s plenty of violence in this tale, so if that isn’t your thing, try a different series.
Watching Munroe navigate the subtleties of Japanese culture while trying to accomplish her goals kept me glued to the page. Munroe isn’t the kind of character who does nice things just for the heck of it, so it’s all the more interesting when she does decide to help someone. (It’s also interesting to see how far she’ll go in order to accomplish something that isn’t her responsibility.)
The mystery and action aspects of this book are dialed up high, providing plenty of general plot tension as well as death-defying stunts and fights. The cross-cultural aspects add subtlety, puzzles, and both hints and red herrings. It’s a clever, dark tale of mystery, suspense, and violence.
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.