This strikingly solid debut from Taylor Stevens is already earning some remarkably weighty comparisons, most notably to Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne trilogy and Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander series. The first in a plan for at least three books, The Informationist introduces us to Vanessa Michael Munroe. Munroe is certainly the love child of Bourne and Salander, a fierce fighting machine with a gift for technology and an ability to blend into any environment. But she also has a unique feature that most thriller protagonists can’t touch: Munroe’s past is based heavily on Stevens’ own history. Born into the controversial Children of God cult, Stevens travelled the world under conditions of harsh discipline and intense violence. Ultimately fleeing the commune but never quite able to escape the demons it awakened within her, the author endows her hero with a considerably more believable inner monologue than many similarly hardened good guys whose authors do not have the benefit of any ordeals relevant to their characters.
As Munroe runs all over central Africa trying to put down the terrifying reminders of her childhood in the region and pick up the cold trail of a missing girl, listeners encounter a dozen different local accents and several assorted languages, from German and French to Fang and Portuguese. Thankfully, Audie Award-winner and veteran narrator Hillary Huber is there to guide us through it. Her tough and sexy natural voice is a perfect fit for Munroe, and Huber’s deftly diligent rendering of each accent is an absolute delight to the ear. This international flavor is crucial to the ambience and pace of the story, and any lesser narrator would have taken all the life out of it. Though Stevens incorporates many traditional characters like the possibly nefarious Texan billionaire, the macho sidekick who can’t really keep up, and the rugged jungle gun-runner, The Informationist is brimming with fresh perspective and depth thanks to the one-two punch of Stevens’ wealth of personal experience and Huber’s professional savvy. Megan Volpert
Vanessa “Michael” Munroe deals in information - expensive information - working for corporations, heads of state, private clients, and anyone else who can pay for her unique brand of expertise. Born to missionary parents in lawless central Africa, Munroe took up with an infamous gunrunner and his mercenary crew when she was just fourteen. As his protégé, she earned the respect of the jungle's most dangerous men, cultivating her own reputation for years until something sent her running. After almost a decade building a new life and lucrative career from her home base in Dallas, she's never looked back.
A Texas oil billionaire has hired her to find his daughter who vanished in Africa four years ago. It’s not her usual line of work, but she can’t resist the challenge. Pulled deep into the mystery of the missing girl, Munroe finds herself back in the lands of her childhood, betrayed, cut off from civilization, and left for dead. If she has any hope of escaping the jungle and the demons that drive her, she must come face-to-face with the past that she’s tried for so long to forget.
Gripping, ingenious, and impeccably paced, The Informationist marks the arrival or a thrilling new talent.
©2011 Taylor Stevens (P)2011 Random House Audio
“Stevens’s blazingly brilliant debut introduces a great new action heroine, Vanessa Michael Munroe, who doesn’t have to kick over a hornet’s nest to get attention, though her feral, take-no-prisoners attitude reflects the fire of Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander….Thriller fans will eagerly await the sequel to this high-octane page-turner.” (Publishers Weekly)
Thrillers with a female lead aren't too common and often feel a bit forced, but Stevens only pulls this one off thanks to the unique setting of this novel.
Taking place primarily in some of the most lawless parts of the world, the listener gets a peak into subsaharan Africa. I was never really convinced that the view was authentic, but I could suspend my disbelief and revel in the story for awhile.
Honestly though I was expecting a more original/interesting character in Monroe. I never thought she developed into a true heroine. Sure she has a Type A personality and can kick some ass along with an interesting life, but that's a dime a dozen in thrillers. Nothing stood out to make her stand out.
That this was written by a brand-new writer astonishes me. The depth given to our heroine is spooky-good. I do like books with iron-jawed gurls punching their way through villains, I get so tired of hero-blokes. The only place that failed to convince was the third third of the book, which is where it dropped one star. That got slow, and the narrative was not driven as hard as in the rest of the book.
Excellent narrator, none of this 47 accents and all of them inappropriate. Perfectly weighted and effortless to listen to. Great job Hilary Huber.
The book is a excellent look at the grotty Africa I met and didn't like much. Very convincing and I look forward greatly to the authors next works. brendan (atlanta)
I love thrillers! Most are somewhat predictable but that's okay; they're still entertaining and worth the time spent. Every now and then one comes along that is very different, and that's what was so great about "The Informationist". Besides a great plot, it was fascinating to read about Africa in such detail. I just loved the book and couldn't put it down. Kudos to Taylor Stevens on her first novel! I'm looking forward to future books about Vanessa. And more Africa, please.
I loved loved loved the heroine of this novel. I really appreciated that Stevens took the time to explain how Munroe got to be such a bad ass. The level of detail about various part of Africa was unlike anything I've ever read before and made what could have been a pretty standard thriller to into something far more interesting.
I wasn't thrilled with the narration, but it was fine enough. Overall though I definitely recommend this audiobook.
If you like this genre, you'll love this book and the people who pepper it. Great characters, excellent plotting. Listened during bike rides, speed walks, drives to work and any chance I got. Give me more, please.
Better than expected! Will look for more Taylor Stevens efforts. Good character development and held my interest on a consistent basis. Credits well spent and as usual a good Audilbe offering
I'm an avid listener. Audio books are a mini-vacation for me. They fill my "need to read" when I don't have time - which is most of the time. Great element of multi-tasking!
A refreshingly new approach to the action "hero" who happens to be a woman. Monroe cares about right and fairness, but doesn't mind getting her hands VERY dirty in the process of achieving it. A wonderfully flawed character who tries to keep her work as "just a job," but can't manage it, as her inner life is so complex. Fighting her own demons and fighting the bad guys are all in a days work. The story literally covers the globe and introduces us to lawyers, oil men, mercenaries, child victims, government officials and....Vanessa. One of the freshest characters I've read lately. Caveat: LOTS of vividly described violence, but not unnecessary to the story. I am usually hard on narrators who can't do dialects, but have nothing but praises for Hillary Huber: male, female, African, French, Standard American, Southwestern--she does it all beautifully.
I can suspend disbelief well, and I read a lot of stuff that strains believability.
But this was just silly.
I admit that I only listened to half of the novel, because I thought it had to get better . . . but it didn't, and I value my time too much to listen to something that is trying to be believable, but isn't.
Let me give you one small spoiler: the protagonist is supposed to be this very attractive woman . . . but she can easily pass for a guy when she needs to. WHAT???
(And the reader seemed too melodramatic and breathy for my taste, but maybe it was just because what she was reading was so terrible -- I cannot be sure.)
I will end the review here. It hurts my head just to think about this audiobook anymore.
If you want to listen to a good thriller, try something by Alex Berenson, anything by Robert Crais, or one of Lee Child's "Jack Reacher" novels (really - there are lots of books that I REALLY like - JUST NOT THIS ONE!)
And knowing that this won a "Tournament of Audiobooks," I will say this: I will never again trust the outcome of the "Tournament" in deciding how to invest a credit. (Really - this book is THAT bad.) I guess I am just not with the pack.
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