My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Taylor Stevens gets better with each book. This–“The Doll” (Crown 2013)–is her third in the Vanessa Michael Munroe series, and in my estimation, the best. Her Munroe character is unlike any other out there in the thriller genre. She is severely damaged by events in her life, but uses those scars to thrive as an informationist–finding information and sometimes people for others. With spot-on instincts, the ability to connect the dots even when she can’t see them, and a facility with both mental and physical weapons, she is not someone you want to anger.
In this third book, she has found a level of peace with Miles Bradford, a man who cherishes her for what she is, watches her back, and understands her needs. That is shattered when she is kidnapped by the Doll Maker, an international human trafficker, to deliver another kidnapped woman into the hands of a psychotic misogynist. The Doll Maker knows threatening Munroe’s life won’t work for she cares little whether she lives or dies, so instead, dangles the life of one of her few friends, promising to release them both once she has succeeded in her mission. She complies, hoping Bradford will rescue her friend while she figures out how to save the second kidnapped woman. Munroe uses the full gamut of mental and physical tricks in an impossible quest to bring everyone out alive, barely maintaining control of the voices in her mind insisting she solve the problem with extreme violence, not mental canny.
And then the Doll Maker makes a mistake. He kills Noah, the rare man Munroe allowed into her life. The last man she loved, if she let herself admit that. Now, Munroe will not be satisfied with simply escaping with the life of her charge. Now, she must destroy the Doll Maker, his organization, and everyone around them.
Stevens is a unique writer, with an almost stream of consciousness approach to the life-and-death plot. When the reader is with Munroe, we feel her pain, her battle to do what must be done while tamping down the demons that constantly lurk below the surface of her consciousness. Every minute of the day, she struggles to control her self-conscious, her addictions, the fury at injustice that becomes a visceral presence trying to control her thoughts and actions. Where the story could be considered a fairly typical plot, Vanessa Michael Munroe make it anything but.
If you haven’t read the first two books, read those before Doll Maker. Then, sign up with Crown to be notified every time Stevens publishes a new book.
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog,Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.