Review of “The Informationist” by Taylor Stevens

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.

Location of Equatorial Guinea

Location of Equatorial Guinea

[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.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by Crown Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., 2011

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14 Responses to Review of “The Informationist” by Taylor Stevens

  1. Sandy says:

    You got my attention with the Lisbeth thing. Before Larson, there were very few enigmatic female characters like this (in my opinion) but now it seems authors have been inspired! i’m glad there will be more books so the character can get further developed. I am curious about a rating of only 3.5. Going to have to talk to you about why…

  2. Marie says:

    Sounds like something I might enjoy but probably wouldn’t go out of my way for. Great review though!

  3. Beth F says:

    I’ve heard the comparison with Lisbeth but I don’t really agree. The two women may share some similarities (loner, tough, smart), but I think the link is more of a marketing ploy than reality. Just my opinion. Anyway, Africa was certainly a major player in the novel.

  4. BermudaOnion says:

    This sounds like it would be worth reading for the setting alone. One of the women I’ve met at Book Your Lunch events loved this book and keeps telling me I need to read it.

  5. 22 languages? Wow.

    It’s going on my to-read list now… 🙂

  6. There seems to be quite the buzz about this book and any character that has a similarity to Lisbeth sounds great to me! Did it seem far-fetched to you with the ability to speak 22 languages, though? That jumped out at me!

  7. Barbara says:

    Obviously the word “researcher” is sooo 20th century! Informationist sounds more important somehow. (Now Barbara, don’t quibble.) I think this sounds pretty good personally and so my list grows even longer. This coming year I’m going to pay more attention to settings in different countries. Dave doesn’t understand, but you can learn a lot about a country in novels.

  8. zibilee says:

    The main character and certain situations in this book remind me of The White Mary, which I read ages and ages ago. It sounds like the setting and the story would instantly grab me, and I am considering getting this one based on your reactions to it. It seems like the kind of thriller that is not totally cliched.Great review today, Jill!

  9. Jenny says:

    I have this on my shelf to read soon so I’m glad to hear it’s good. For some reason it seems like there are a lot of characters lately being compared to Lisbeth… I just read one (that I’ll be reviewing soon) that compares to her except I think this other character is rougher than Lisbeth as well. I look forward to reading this!

  10. I still have to read the Larsen books so I’m not going to add this one to my TBR list just yet! Great review 😀

  11. I think I liked this one more than you. I think Munroe is a great character, I liked the setting, a liked a lot of the secondary characters and the plot was pretty clever. Yep, I liked it quite a bit.

  12. stacybuckeye says:

    I won this one not that long ago and am looking forward to it. Still haven’t read the Larsson books.

  13. Julie P. says:

    I have this one and have considered reading it quite a few times. Wonder if I should or pass it to Booking Pap Pap.

  14. Pingback: Book Review - THE INFORMATIONIST by Taylor Stevens

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