by Taylor Stevens
307 pages, Crown Publishers
Review by Melissa Conway
Heroine Vanessa “Michael” Munroe is a stone-cold badass. She’s got all the goods: a disguise-friendly gender-neutral face and figure that allows her to blend in like a chameleon, a history of fight-or-die training that honed her ninja-like skills, and a savant-like linguistic ability. Forged in the lawless jungles of central Africa, these formidable traits have earned her the respect of her peers—those who’ve heard of her, that is. She’s the secret weapon of corporations world-wide. If they need someone to get in, get the intel and get out, she’s their man.
Michael hasn’t been back to Africa since she dealt the sadistic monster who trained her his final blow, but she’s been hired to find out what happened to a young woman who disappeared somewhere in the depths of the continent. Going back resurrects a whole host of demons from the past, but she’s got a job to do. Richard Burbank, the billionaire father of the lost girl, seems desperate to find out what happened to her. Michael the mercenary is used to working alone, but Burbank saddles her with his friend Miles Bradford, former military Special Forces now providing private security.
The two move about the country with the aid of Michael’s cohort Logan back in her adopted home-town of Dallas. Logan is the procurer of forged documents and weapons and other sundry supplies, and is a steadfast friend to our tormented heroine. Her only other friend is the business-like Kate Breeden, who also serves as go-between and arranger of missions.
Right away this mission goes south. Not only does Michael find heavy resistance to her probing from authorities in Africa, but she and Bradford are being followed. When Michael is grabbed, dumped into the ocean and left for dead, it becomes painfully obvious someone doesn’t want Emily Burbank to be found. Now Michael is forced to request aid from her former boss Francisco Beyard, a ruthless and brilliant gun-runner.
The Informationist is author Taylor Stevens’ debut novel, a satisfying page-turner that gives the reader authentic glimpses into life on a third-world continent, from political unrest and governmental corruption to the big business oil fields. The story ends satisfactorily, but leaves room for a sequel, which I’m looking forward to.