Taylor Stevens’ latest Informationist novel hits the ground running. The Doll opens the instant following a sudden crash involving Vanessa Michael Munroe, the heroine of the series, after which she’s spirited into an ambulance and disappears. The accident was witnessed, though, by Miles Bradford, her lover and the owner of the security consulting firm currently employing her. Bradford springs into action, assembling his team to begin tracking Munroe down, and the novel’s off to a cracking start.
If you haven’t read the first two Informationist novels, you might find the beginning a little difficult to sink into. Vanessa doesn’t really appear until a few chapters in, as we follow the race to discover what happened, and who took Munroe. When we do discover the plot (she’s being blackmailed by human traffickers to deliver another kidnapping victim), we’re deep into the dark world of these novels, where all the skills Vanessa had to develop to survive are tested in her efforts to save herself and those precious few people she cares about. She’s holding a lot of rage in check to keep focused on survival, but when someone close to her dies, a taste for vengeance becomes too powerful to ignore.
Taylor Stevens is a talented writer, with a real skill for keeping the action moving forward. There’s a darkness to her books that has drawn comparisons to Stieg Larsson, and it’s an apt comparison given the histories of both heroines. But beyond their common background as survivors of violence, both are utterly driven, intelligent individuals, who see the world as a place where it’s sometimes necessary to respond to brutality with brutality. Vanessa Michael Munroe is a character who’s been defined by the horrors she’s lived through, and she’s emerged with very sharp edges. I would almost find it hard to like her if not for her desire to protect others. Ultimately I did like her, and this book.
As a side note, last year it was announced James Cameron had optioned the first book in the series, which is still my favorite. I sincerely hope he’ll actually bring it to the screen, as it would be an excellent way for him to move away from sweeping Epics and back to the kind of gritty films he mastered back with Terminator and Aliens. Both had strong heroines and relentless action, and Vanessa Michael Munroe fits nicely with Sarah Connor and Ripley. If you haven’t discovered it yet, this is a series worth catching up on. If you’re already a fan, you’re going to love The Doll.