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The Informationist: A Thriller Hardcover – March 8, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 463 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Stevens's blazingly brilliant debut introduces a great new action heroine, Vanessa Michael Munroe, who doesn't have to kick over a hornet's nest to get attention, though her feral, take-no-prisoners attitude reflects the fire of Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander. Nine years have passed since Munroe, the daughter of American missionaries, escaped Cameroon at age 15 after a violent incident. She's forged a new life in Texas as an "informationist," a person who specializes in gathering information about developing countries for corporations. Munroe's best friend, marketing consultant Kate Breeden, refers her to Miles Bradford, a high-stakes security pro, who believes she's the perfect choice to help Houston oilman Richard Burbank find his adopted daughter, Emily, who vanished four years earlier at age 18 while vacationing in west central Africa. Munroe returns to Africa, where she reconnects with her ex-boyfriend, Francisco Beyard, a sexy drug- and gun-running businessman, who assists in the dangerous search for Emily. Thriller fans will eagerly await the sequel to this high-octane page-turner. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

This intriguing novel�s first chapters summon memories of the sort of cases Robert Parker�s Spenser had a habit of taking. A gazillionaire�s daughter vanished in Africa years ago. The gazillionaire has paid fortunes to PIs with no returns, hence his interest in �information specialist� Vanessa Munroe, a gumshoe for the twenty-first century. She can�t resist the mystery or the paycheck, and the first third here is a riveting procedural about how an informationist does business. Then she�s kidnapped and held captive on a boat in Equatorial Guinea, and suddenly we�re in an adventure tale. Vanessa spends another chunk of the narrative wondering whether she�ll survive and will this make sense. So do we, and yes to both questions. The maneuvers at the end are dazzling, worthy of patience with the puzzling middle, and a tad reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes� matter of the Copper Beeches. Monroe is a model of an emerging action heroine: like Stieg Larsson�s Lisbeth Salander, not a guy in a girl suit but not one to whimper in the corner, either. --Don Crinklaw

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (March 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307717092
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307717092
  • ASIN: 0307717097
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (463 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #884,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

TAYLOR STEVENS is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Vanessa Michael Munroe series. Published in over twenty languages and optioned for film by James Cameron's production company, Lightstorm Entertainment, the books are international boots-on-the-ground thrillers featuring a mercenary information hunter in a non-testosterone mix of Jason Bourne and Jack Reacher.

Stevens came to writing fiction late. Born into an apocalyptic cult, separated from her family at age twelve and denied an education beyond sixth grade, she lived on three continents and in a dozen countries before she turned fourteen. In place of schooling, the majority of her adolescence was spent begging on city streets at the behest of cult leaders, or as a worker bee child, caring for the many younger commune children, washing laundry and cooking meals for hundreds at a time. In her twenties, Stevens broke free in order to follow hope and a vague idea of what possibilities lay beyond.

In addition to writing novels, Stevens shares extensively about the mechanics of storytelling, writing, overcoming adversity, and the details of her journey into publishing at http://www.taylorstevensbooks.com/connect.php - she welcomes you to join her.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Vanessa Michael Munroe is a dangerous loner who bears emotional and physical scars, reminiscent of Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander. Like Salander, Munroe is adept at acquiring information. While Salander relies upon her skills as a computer hacker, Munroe infiltrates cultures, sometimes posing as a man, working in developing countries for private businesses and organizations like the IMF. Despite her desperate need for down time and the fact that it really isn't her line of work, she accepts an assignment to locate a wealthy businessman's daughter who was last seen in Namibia four years earlier. The businessman insists that Munroe work with Miles Bradford, a mercenary whose job is to keep her safe. The search takes Munroe to Central Africa, where she has some history that she would prefer to remain buried. Yet she remains a product of her inescapable past: fierce and determined, but tormented by the preaching voices that keep her awake at night. Munroe travels to some nasty places and encounters even nastier people who would prefer that the circumstances of the young woman's disappearance remain a mystery. She also meets up with the life she left behind, including a close friend: a gunrunner from whom she walked away nine years earlier.

If the gunrunner brings to mind Humphrey Bogart, Munroe would have to be a warped composite of Jessica Alba, Angelina Jolie, Uma Thurman, and all three Charlie's Angels. She's a great character: an intuitive, intelligent action hero who speaks multiple languages, practices martial arts, and is handy with a knife; a haunted nomad with a horrific past whose understandable ferocity is barely restrained (except when it's not).
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I enjoyed this book at first, and the problems I had might not bother other readers at all. I found the setting and characters compelling for the first half. But it slows down 2/3 of the way through, and it was at that point when the writing finally got to me. To be honest, I don't often judge thrillers based on the writing itself. I'm not looking for flowery prose or beautiful descriptions. I just want to know what's happening and who the characters are. But there were parts of the book where the writing was just wrong. Not clunky, or awkward, but just nonsensical. Still, even that is usually okay in a thriller. You can get a sense of what they mean, and move on. What really killed the book for me were the attempts to have every chapter end on a "deep" note. I found I was rolling my eyes every other chapter. It just didn't match the rest of the book. And when the hard-ass heroine ended a chapter talking about sex as opening her soul, well, it was one eye-roll too many.

But like I said, the action is good, and the African setting was interesting. If you enjoyed the setting here, you should check out the graphic novel series "Unknown Soldier" by Joshua Dysart. The Unknown Soldier series is set during the Lord's Resistance Army insurgency of Uganda in 2002 and is amazing.
7 Comments 158 of 174 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Its not often that I can't wait to find the time to read. I looked forward to see where the story went, what new things I'd learn about African culture, what new disturbing episode the main protagonist would get involved in, and what new doublecross would present itself to be unwound.

Given that this is the authors debut novel, I was simply blown away. Its not hard to tell that she has a unique mind, and has lived through many remarkable experiences. The depth of her character exploration, the complexity of the protagonist's perspectives, and the twists and turns that deep African culture and social complexities lead to are just incredible.

The basic story is somewhat standard thriller fare. But the way its told, the way the story is constructed, and the remarkable depth of the characters is simply amazing. Layer that with how the author weaves the story, with her deep knowledge of some of Africa's more seedy cultures and the deeply lonely yet introspective characters that populate her story, and its just some of the finest fiction I have ever read.

This book is a remarkable accomplishment, by any and all measures. That is her first novel makes it even more amazing. The characters, settings, and twists are like nothing you've read, even if you're a prolific reader.

I look forward to her next novel, as I'm sure others who've read this book are. Fantastic, just fantastic
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First off, The Informationist is not as good as you might think based upon all of the breathlessly positive reviews. The main problem is the disconnect between the book's extremely compelling premise and the ragged quality of the writing itself. This was ultimately very frustrating -- like going to a World Series game where the best hitters turn in a sub-par performance.

The heroine of the book -- Vanessa Michael Munroe -- is someone who is known as an "informationist." She's a hired gun of sorts who companies hire to gather intelligence on foreign markets that will aid them in their business decisions. Her skills in this arena have not come easy, but are an outgrowth of survival skills learned growing up in the wilds of Cameroon as the daughter of missionaries and then, while still under 18, as part of a team of African mercenaries.

The book begins with Munroe being hired for a different, but very complementary assignment. A business tycoon's daughter has gone missing in Equatorial Guinea and after four years of searching it is still unclear whether she is alive or dead. Enter Vanessa Michael Munroe.

It's in the execution of the writing where the experience of this book falls off with page upon page of tortuous, cliched lines. For example, "It was one thing to allow a man access to her body, another thing entirely to allow a man access to her soul." And this goes on throughout the entire book.

Also, "Michael" as she's mostly referred to is a particularly grim and not very likable character. She comes across as particularly soulless and shallow at the beginning and really doesn't change all that much through the course of the book.

If you need a diversion on a plane, this could be a good choice. Just don't go in expecting any sort of tour-de-force.
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