Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Informationist

The Informationist: A Thriller
by Taylor Stevens, Crown Publishing, March 2011

If you are unhappy that the Stieg Larsson trilogy has no sequels you might try this story. The flawed heroine, Vanessa Michael Monroe certainly brings to mind Lisabeth Salander. Monroe is the daughter of missionaries and grew up in West Africa. She has a dark back-story that I won’t reveal here but she is a self-sufficient, intense character. After leaving her past behind, she has moved to Houston and with the help of her mentor Kate Breeden developed a career for herself. Monroe’s specialty is gaining information in third world countries that individuals, corporations or governments can use.

Monroe has been lured from her regular work by a big dollar contract to locate the missing daughter of an American industrialist. The girl has not been heard from since she disappeared during a college vacation in South Africa four years previous. The action moves between Houston, Germany, Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea and off shore islands. Monroe confronts people from her African teenage years as she attempts to locate and return the daughter. She is assisted by a gunrunner, Francois Beyard. The industrialist that has hired her has also sent along a security pro, Miles Bradford to keep him in the information loop as the investigation proceeds. Both of these characters have hidden agendas that are slowly revealed. The information that Monroe uncovers about the circumstances of the daughter’s disappearance lead her to conclude that all is not as it seems!

This story moves at a good clip. The mystery develops and while the ending had a trick or two in it, it was somewhat predictable. I loved the setting, not many books I read are set in Africa so there were new ethnic and cultural ideas to learn. The author did bring these cultures alive in her story. I was so lost with the movements of the main characters though I had to resort to Google maps to see where they were going when they moved from place to place which probably says more about my lack of knowledge of African geography than anything else.

Monroe is a worthy character. The author is able to spin out her intricacies and motivations very well. I ended up rooting for her to work out her demons and get her life on the right course. Didn’t happen in this story but I bet we get another chance in the sequel. This story meets my requirements for a good thriller - tight plotting, good character development and an acceptable ending.

I read a copy of this novel borrowed from The Free Library of Philadelphia

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