Vanessa Michael Munroe is an “informationalist,” someone who is known as an expert in finding out what corporations need to know in any setting, especially in Africa, the land of her birth. Born to missionaries in Cameroon, she spent nearly eighteen years living in Africa, and speaks twenty-two languages. It serves her amazingly well in her job. Her reputation as one of the best at what she does leads oil millionaire Richard Burbank to hire her to find his daughter Emily, who disappeared four years earlier during an overland safari in Africa. He offers Munroe a great deal of money, but also insists she take along Miles Bradford, a contractor of Burbank’s who is former Special Forces and now handles high-stakes private security.
Africa is a dangerous, lawless place, and Munroe and Bradford find themselves followed, threatened, and almost killed more than once. However, even more so than Bradford, Munroe is expert at getting out of life-threatening situations. Etched with scars on the outside and hardened by scars on the inside, Munroe is a fierce fighter and a determined survivor. Even Bradford’s past as Special Forces does not provide an advantage over Munroe’s strength and determination.
In Africa, the two hook up with Munroe’s old mentor, Francisco Beyard, and the tension between the two men adds to an already hair-raising experience marked by violence and betrayal. It is clear that the question quickly becomes which of them will make it out of Africa alive, with or without solving the mystery of Emily.
Discussion: Critics are finding the character of Munroe similar to Lisbeth from the Stieg Larsson books, and it’s not an unreasonable comparison. If anything, Munroe seems a little “harder” to me. Much of the story was focused on her and how she got to be the way she is, and on the nightmare that is Equatorial Guinea, often listed as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
[In this poor country, for example, Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue, the son of President Obiang, was recently castigated by the U.S. for spending aid money on such things as a $30 Malibu mansion, a $38.5 million Gulfstream jet, $3.2 million worth of Michael Jackson memorabilia, a 2011 Ferrari automobile valued at more than $530,000 (only one of Obiang’s 24 luxury cars worth nearly $10 million), commissioning a “superyacht” to be built for $380 million, etc. But the vast majority of the country’s 680,000 people live below the poverty line with tens of thousands having no access to electricity or clean water, according to UN and World Bank figures. 20 percent of children die before reaching five. The Obiangs also receive large payments from US oil companies.] The missing persons case really takes a backseat to these other issues.
Evaluation: Munroe is an interesting character, and this book definitely has good “thriller” aspects to it. An additional book featuring Munroe is in the works.
Published by Crown Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., 2011