Review: The Informationist by Taylor Stevens

March 16, 2011 Crown Publishers, Mystery/Suspense, Review, Thriller 10

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (March 8, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0307717097
  • Source: Third party

  • It’s been nine years since Vanessa “Michael” Munroe escaped Cameroon at the young age of fifteen.  She now serves as an “informationist”, and individual who visits developing country & obtains information to assist large corporations.

    Her lastest client is Richard Burbank, a Houston oilman who is searching for his missing step-daughter, Emily.  Emily was eighteen years old when she disappeared four years ago during a vacation to west central Africa. Burbank has paid countless thousands of dollars to private investigators over the years but they’ve all return empty-handed.  He wants some proof that Emily is still alive. While this sort of job isn’t her typical fare, Munroe accepts the offer & reluctantly returns to Africa.  Her past in Africa wasn’t exactly a pleasant one.

    Munroe travels to Africa, accompanied by Miles Bradford, a mercenary with close ties to the Burbank family. It’s not long after her return that Munroe meets up with her past, including a long-lost friend/now gunrunner.  Despite the danger Munroe must face, she feels a connection to this lost girl and is willing to put her own life in danger in order to find her.

    The Informationist is an absolutely stunning debut, written by an incredibly brave woman with her own past.  Taylor Stevens was raised in a religious cult, referred to then as the  Children of God, now known as the Family International. She traveled the world with this organization before breaking free.  This book is dedicated as follows: “To my fellow childhood survivors-you know who you are.”

    While reading, the comparisons between Taylor & the main character, Munroe, were quite evident. Both women, incredibly strong, broke free of a painful childhood, becoming ever-stronger by doing so.

    Munroe is quite the woman.  She’s been burned (quite possibly literally!) many times in the past.  She’s hesitant to open herself up yet she survives on discovering the secrets of others.  She’s strong, both mentally and physically.  She knows her way around guns & most anything that can be considered a deadly weapon.  As the storyline unfolds, so does Munroe’s history. We learn of the abuse she received & her finally escape.  We see the motives & reasoning behind the woman she is now. Taylor’s characterization & depth into not only Munroe but the secondary characters as well shows this debut authors talent not only as an author but a perceptive individual as well.

    The level in which Taylor describes the setting of Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea quite literally transports the reader into this unfamiliar world.  I appreciated that this setting was unique, not one often visited in the thriller-writing world. My lack of familiarity about this area of the world did not hamper my reading experience in any manner; Taylor’s detailed descriptions of both the physcial, as well as the “social”, setting of this area world allowed me to read with ease.

    Even before the release nearly a week ago, the media has compared The Informationist to the widely-popular Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series by Stieg Larsson. While both books have strong female characters with a talent of hunting down information, the comparison ends there. Taylor Stevens’ The Informationist can stand it’s own!  A completely unique thriller, reportedly the first book in a series.  You can’t afford to miss out on this talent!

    Note: I’d be remiss not to mention the few graphic scenes, not unexpected or unneccesary given the subject of this novel.

    10 Responses to “Review: The Informationist by Taylor Stevens”

    1. bermudaonion (Kathy)
      Twitter: bermudaonion

      I think it’s an added bonus that the book is set somewhere unfamiliar like that. I love to learn about different cultures. I can handle graphic in a book like this.

    2. Delphyne

      I have been dying to read this. I have it on hold at the library. Waiting… waiting… :) Stevens background and the Lisbeth Salander references were what originally drew me to this one. I’m glad to see it will be worth the wait!

    3. Laurel-Rain Snow
      Twitter: laurelrainsnow

      This one is definitely going on my wish list…thanks for sharing your thoughts on what sounds like an extraordinary tale that includes one woman’s “interior journey,” as well.

    4. S. Krishna
      Twitter: skrishna

      “Absolutely stunning” – wow. If you didn’t have me convinced when we were talking the other day, you definitely do now! I can’t wait to read this one!

    5. Beth F
      Twitter: BethFishReads

      Now that I’ve got my own review up … I can read yours. The author’s personal story definitely adds to the novel, making the African setting seem so authentic. Munroe is a great character.