Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Review of "The Informationist" [76]

The Informationist: A Thriller by Taylor Stevens
Crown, ISBN 978-0307717092
March 8, 2011, 320 pages

Vanessa "Michael" Munroe has a very successful career gathering information.
If you are an individual, a corporation, or a government that needs information, she is the best you can hire. She can blend into another culture, pose as all sorts of different characters and get the real information, see the hidden connections that tie the facts together and come up with the information that those who hire her will use to base their decisions on. She has an incredible, natural ability with languages, is very clever and is darn handy with a knife when she has to be.

Finding missing people is not her usual job. But when she gets an offer, for a huge amount of money, to try and find the missing daughter of billionaire oilman Richard Burbank, she is intrigued. Emily disappeared four years ago while traveling as a tourist in Africa. He has hired team after team to try and find out what happen, if she is alive or dead, but each one came up clueless. Munroe is his last chance, he say, to find the truth of what happen.

For Munroe, the trip where the clues lead, to Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, will be a sort of a journey home. That is if she felt that she had a home. But it is the place she was born, to missionary parents, and it is the place she lived until nine years ago, when she killed a man and left the mercenary smuggler she had been working with. It is a past filled with terrible memories and a past that has left her with so many numerous scars, both physical and emotional, that at times she can barely keep the darkness and rage from overtaking her.
"Returning to the past was inevitable. Somehow in the last nine years she'd managed to stay upright on a tightrope stretched between brilliance and insanity, the blackness of the abyss always with her, leaving her sometimes wondering if letting go might in the end be easiest of all."
But soon after she gets there, things start to go very wrong. She finds herself drugged, shot and thrown off a boat and only because of her skills is able to narrowly survive. She finds herself alone and injured, in a wild and lawless nation, not knowing who betrayed her and who she can trust.
And what does a missing young American girl have to do with any of this.

If you read anything about this book, you can not miss the comparisons between Munroe and Lisbeth Salander. Yes, they are both androgynous, damaged young women with deadly skills and great intelligence. But this is no Larsson knockoff. No, Munroe is very much her own character. Her feelings and emotions, her anger, her fears seem so real that you can not help but think that they came from the actual emotions of the author, especially when you know the author's own story. Because I must admit that when I first read about this book, it was the author's story that I found as intriguing as the story outlined.
Stevens was raised in a cult, as she tell on her website...
"childhood and adolescence were spent begging on city streets from Zurich to Tokyo, preparing food and washing laundry for hundreds of people, and otherwise trying to survive dreary life as a worker bee child in a communal apocalyptic cult. My innocence and scholastic education stopped completely when I was twelve-years-old. Cut off from personal family, at times under the care of sadistic individuals and without access to books or television from the outside world, imagination became a survival mechanism...Along this journey I have seen the best and worst of humanity and don't have to look far to find the depth of soul and tormented conflict that drives my characters; I pull heavily from personal experience and the experience of the ones I love when creating the worlds they walk in."
That this is her first book, written with so little formal education, makes it even more remarkable. Because this is a very well written book. The dialogue is great, the characters are great and the plot, while yes, a bit over the top at times but hey folks, this is a thriller, will grab you and pull you to the last page and a surprising and satisfying ending.

Munroe is a great character. Maybe a bit too emotional for my taste because I like my borderline sociopaths to be a tiny bit more sociopathic. Oh please Ms. Stevens, do not make her too nice!! Keep the edge sharp! Still, I will be very interested to read Ms. Stevens next book, The Innocent, that will be out next year. I hope we have a lot more deep and dark secrets to find out about Vanessa and see what rip roaring adventure she will get us roped into next.
And you can not read this book but start to wonder who they will cast in the movie, because this would make one heck of a great movie!

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.


  1. This does sound like one I'd enjoy. I really need to fit it in sometime. Great review Caite

  2. I need to get my hands on this one. It is just my speed. Plus if more are coming, I need to get in on it at the beginning.

  3. terrific review! This book sounds most intriguing and like it was right up your alley. Glad you enjoyed it.

  4. Okay fine. I was wondering what book to start today, so I'll do this one!

  5. lets hope when they do cast it, they do better than Ms Mara being cast as Lisabeth..

  6. I can certainly suspend disbelief in thrillers. This sounds like my kind of book!

  7. This sounds like one heck of a book that I'd love to read!

  8. I recently finished this book and enjoyed it, too!


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