The Informationist by Taylor Stevens
Official Summary: “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 of a thrilling new talent.”
The Informationist by Taylor Stevens is clearly in the same vein as many other recent books that have a strong female protagonist who can take care of herself in any situation. It tells the story of Vanessa Munroe, who escaped a traumatic childhood to become an information mercenary traveling the world to conduct research and write reports for her clients. Having just finished an assignment, she is reluctant to take on another, but the money offered to find the daughter of a rich oil executive is just too good to turn down. The assignment takes her back to the continent of her childhood, bringing with it all the painful memories and lost personal connections that she has turned her back on for so many years.
Stevens never shies away from the violence of Munroe’s past or that of her present employment, making for a book that is grittier and darker than the average mystery novel. Munroe herself fits with the current trend in mysteries and thrillers of strong, independent and remote female protagonists. While she does have a network of associates, and even perhaps friends, she works hard to be free from any strong personal ties and moves around the globe regularly for jobs rather than settling in any one location. The details of Munroe’s childhood, which explain much of her attitude, are slowly revealed over the course of the novel and give readers a better sense of how Munroe reached this point in her life. The plot itself has the twists and turns that one traditionally finds in the genre and it will legitimately keep readers guessing on a number of fronts until the very end.
Despite the complicated and surprising plot, this book didn’t quite hold up for me. While it kept me turning pages, several points in the story didn’t quite ring true and overall I think it suffered from comparisons to Steig Larsson’s Millenium books, which I found to be the superior thrillers. Having said that, I think that readers who are interested in the story’s exotic locales and intense protagonist will find the story gripping and will be kept guessing until the end.
Read Alike: With its tough and distant female protagonist, many have compared The Informationist to Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy and those who like this book would undoubtedly like that series, perhaps even better. For those looking for more similar books, I would recommend Red Wolf by Liza Marklund or The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg.
Getaway by Lisa Brackmann
Official Summary: “Michelle Mason tells herself she’s on vacation. A brief stay in the Mexican resort town of Puerto Vallarta. It’s a chance to figure out her next move after the unexpected death of her banker husband, who’s left behind a scandal and a pile of debt. The trip was already paid for, and it beats crashing in her sister’s spare room. When a good-looking man named Daniel approaches her on the beach, the margaritas have kicked in and she decides: why not?
But the date doesn’t go as either of them planned. An assault on Daniel in her hotel room, switched cell phones and an encounter with a “friend” of Daniel’s named Gary gets Michelle enmeshed in a covert operation involving drug runners, goons, and venture capitalists. Michelle already knows she’s caught in a dangerous trap. But she quickly finds that running is not an option. If she’s not careful, she’ll end up buried in the town dump, with the rest of the trash. Now she needs to fight smart if she wants to survive her vacation.”
Getaway tells the story of an American woman whose trip to Mexico quickly veers off from her relaxing plans. While Michelle comes to Mexico to escape the stresses of the life that she left behind in L.A. where she is dealing with the aftermath of her husband’s death, she rapidly comes to realize that those problems are small compared to the ones that she finds on the beach in Puerto Vallarta. After an initial encounter with a man she meets on the beach ends in a violent robbery, Michelle quickly becomes tangled in a network of criminals and conspiracies that she never fully understands.
This book impressed me with the way that it managed to maintain intensity throughout. While the first couple of pages may make this seem like a book about a relaxing beach vacation, this proves to be deceptive almost immediately. Michelle is caught up in a web of mysterious expats and locals by the end of the first chapter and the book just keeps delivering more twists and turns to the very end, which even leaves the reader guessing. While many books are structured so that the reader knows more than the protagonist, in this case part of the impact of the story comes from the fact that the reader shares in Michelle’s confusion and therefore never knows what to expect next. While I ultimately felt that the plot may have left me uncertain about a few too many of its twists and turns, fans of thrillers that merge action and suspense will likely appreciate this book’s relentless pace and intriguing characters.
Check it out: Getaway will be available May 1st. If you can’t wait until then, you can check out the first chapter and more about the book on Lisa Brackmann’s website.
Read Alikes: If this sounds interesting, you might want to check out Lisa Brackmann’s first book, Rock Paper Tiger. For books by other authors, try Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger or The Expats by Chris Pavone.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.