Taylor Stevens's The Informationist introduces solitary investigator Vanessa Michael Munroe. Born in Africa to missionary parents, Munroe acquired a gift for languages and a taste for violence. After escaping Equatorial Guinea as a teenager, Munroe eventually developed a reputation for obtaining accurate data from any country and about almost any topic. Her skills and discretion command a high price.
When Richard Burbank, a Texas businessman, requests Munroe's services to track down his long-missing step-daughter, Emily, the investigator thinks about refusing the assignment. First, her specialty is economic data, and second, she has no desire to return to her native continent. Swayed by the high fee and the challenge, Munroe decides to help Burbank, although she only reluctantly agrees to all of his conditions.
The novel is infused with Africa. The complexities of national politics and the technological limitations are just the obvious problems Munroe faces when she returns to Equatorial Guinea. Munroe must also consider the landscape, infrastructure, and underworld bigwigs before she can determine how best to discover Emily's fate. In addition, the investigator is forced to confront the very people she fled from more than a decade earlier, threatening her emotional stability and putting her life at risk.
Taylor adds betrayal, multilayered emotional conflict, violence, and revenge to create a well-paced thriller that keeps readers fully engaged all the way through to the end of the epilogue. Although it's possible to figure out the bare bones of the mystery partway through the novel, the details are not obvious, and Munroe's ultimate solution to the case offers a few surprises. While The Informationist does not end on a cliff hanger, the stage is set for the next in series.
I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Random House Audio; 12 hr, 22 min), read by Hillary Huber, an excellent choice for the novel. Her subtle accents help readers connect to the characters and augment the global feel of the story. My full audio review will be published by AudioFile magazine.
Give it to me quickly: A well-plotted thriller/mystery that takes readers into the heart of modern Africa and into the mind of Vanessa Michael Munroe, a smart, violent, and resourceful information specialist; a story of love, betrayal, and the fight for survival.
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Published by Random House / Crown, 2011
Source: Review (see review policy)
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