My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Received for review from Amazon Vine
I’ve reviewed several of Taylor Stevens’ Vanessa Michael Munroe novels (The Catch, The Doll, The Innocent). I am always excited by how Munroe addresses problems, thinks ten steps ahead, and creatively solves them. With an androgynous name (because she can pass equally as male or female), her storied and violent past seems to be exactly the right cauldron for the troubles that stalk her wherever she goes. Steven’s latest, The Mask (Crown 2015) is another winner. In this, Vanessa is trying to forget the person she’s become–where her predator instincts turn her into an often unwilling hunter–by living with her boyfriend and doing what most of the world considers ‘normal’. Once again, it doesn’t work and she is quickly embroiled in a daunting mystery that threatens to destroy her boyfriend, kill her, and change the world so valued by the people Vanessa aspires to be.
As always, Stevens writing is intelligent. Here, she describes Munroe’s uncanny ability to learn languages in two-three weeks:
Soon enough she would find rhythm in the language, prosody to key the aural lock.
As much as this is a thriller, it is character-driven–and you’ve never met a character like Munroe. She is completely unique–freakish fighting prowess blended with rabid intelligence. Think Xena, the Warrior Princess married to Sherlock Holmes. Read these four snippets–you’ll see what I mean:
She took turns at random [as she walked through Osaka], stopping to compare the quantity and quality of vending machines…; discovered the dichotomy of quiet temples, shrines, and hokora tucked in amid busy city streets; stepped into every shop and restaurant that drew her interest, touching and tasking and breathing and learning, until the evening came and she followed the trail of bread crumbs through Osaka’s crowded footprint home.
Want built tight inside her chest, her skin tingling, itching for the pain to follow and for the violence that would scratch the itch.
…hurt ceased to exist because all that mattered from one heartbeat to the next was whatever it took to stay alive.
There was that wobble again, the gravitational pull of the thing she’d not yet placed.
By page 53, she’d grabbed me–again–and I had to finish. Read at your own risk, when you have plenty of free time.
More character-driven books:
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 the author/editor of dozens of books on integrating tech into education, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, adjunct professor of technology in education, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.