When The Informationist was published, I saw it on The Los Angeles Times bestseller list and was intrigued by the title so I looked for more info on the book. What I found sounded interesting so I decided to read it. I’m very glad I did. If you know more about this type of work, other than what Wikipedia tells about medical informationists, I’d love for you to comment below.
You probably know me well enough by now to know that I love strong women as main characters. The Informationist by Taylor Stevens contains one of the strongest kick-butt women characters I’ve read about since Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salandar (for my reviews of his trilogy, check the All Book & Product Reviews tab, under the Mysteries & Thrillers category). Stevens’ character and Larsson’s Lisbeth also share the trait of being very talented at getting information no one else can get and of being tortured souls for very good reasons.
In The Informationist – Vanessa Michael Munroe, the daughter of American missionaries, escaped Cameroon as a teenager following a grisly incident. To say she has a lot of deep-seated issues to work out is putting it mildly. She has sought escape from those issues and from the world by becoming an incredibly driven informationist, and is much sought after as a consultant by all kinds of companies and other organizations. She is very picky about the cases she takes. The chameleon-like abilities she developed as a teenager allow her to penetrate deep into developing countries, posing as a man or using other disguises, to glean important information for her clients.
“It was unfortunate that she was known as a man to the contact she’d used to gain access [to the club], when tonight of all nights she needed to be a hundred percent woman…The [sexy bimbo] charade lasted until the early morning, when, having gotten what she wanted, she pleaded exhaustion and excused herself from the group.”
Kate Breedon is Munroe’s buffer against the world. Among many services she assists Munrow with, such as bill paying and keeping Munroe’s Houston life running while she’s away, Kate listens to offers requesting Munroe’s unique capabilities and filters them so that she only sees the ones that meet her criteria. Munroe knew where she stood with Kate and Kate was the closest thing she had to a friend.
“Breedon was warm and friendly and absolutely ruthless. She’d screw a person over with a polite smile – cozy up and bury them alive – and for that reason Breedon was an ally. She was safe.”
Despite needing down time badly after extended time working on back-to-back cases in the field, Munroe listens to the details of a case Breedon describes as being easy. It involves Emily Burbank, the adopted teenage daughter of Richard Burbank, a very wealthy man who owns a multi-national oil conglomerate. Emily disappeared in Namibia four years ago. Even though her father has hired the best investigators he could find, no one has been able to find her and he is distraught because Emily is the only family he has left. Whether she’s dead or alive, he needs to know the truth.
Munroe agrees to take the case even though it isn’t at all the kind of case she normally works and even though it will mean she has to return to Central Africa, which she has serious qualms about doing. Burbank’s only stipulation is that she take his security chief, Miles Bradford, with her while she works on the case. Although she has always worked alone, and hates the thought of being so encumbered, she reluctantly agrees after thoroughly vetting Bradford and deciding she can easily dump him if he becomes a problem.
“But the challenge was seductive, and its alluring tendrils wrapped themselves around her mind like the ethereal threads of a spider’s web.”
And so the adventure begins, and what a relentless adventure it is. Munroe will travel throughout Europe, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Namibia in her determined search for the truth about Emily. Everywhere she turns someone and/or some government entity wants to keep her from learning the truth, which only makes her more determined. At some point this stops being a job and becomes a much more personal quest for truth and redemption.
She encounters people and haunting memories from her past including Boniface Akambe, and Francisco Beyard, a gunrunner who taught her how to survive as a scared, lonely teen in a kill-or-be-killed world. She has a kick butt first and ask questions later mentality that has been honed by her survival training and her experiences in escaping Cameroon, and reinforced by her consulting work. Duct tape and guns can be a girl’s best friend when the chips are down and you’re up against ruthless men who literally have no rules, or against corrupt governments and companies where there is no equitable law.
And all the time, running through her mind like endless chatter, are the judgmental Bible verses she was taught as a child, those that condemn her and the world around her. In case it wasn’t already obvious, our heroine has deep-seated conflicts in her personality.
This is a novel that moves at hyper-speed, so hang onto your hat! You really are going to be in for an all-nighter once you start reading this novel because you aren’t going to want to put it down. Still this is not just a plot-driven, shallow thriller. Built into The Informationist is deep character development, which makes it a much more engrossing read.
I loved that most of The Informationist takes place in Africa – what a refreshing change of setting for a thriller, and what ripe territory for thrillers! I couldn’t believe it when I read that this is Taylor Stevens’ debut novel. I hope this will become a series because I’m hooked on reading about Vanessa Munford and want to see what kind of adventure she gets into next. I think you’ll be hooked too!
If you want to purchase The Informationist, just click on any title link or the bookcover art above.
If you’ve read The Informationist, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it. Also feel free to comment about the review, the setting, the author or if you know anything about being an informationist.
If you like our review, please +1 it and/or share it with your friends!