The Informationist – Author Taylor Stevens ~100,000 words, $14.00
Kismet, from the Turkish qisma, or fate. I buy too many books to keep track of where they come from or how I heard about them or even what attracted me to them. This book was sitting there after I’d read my Christmas stack and before I made another book run. I picked it up and was surprised to learn that she was an apocalyptic cult survivor. Hey, me too! Kinda. My childhood cult was a bunch of wacky architects who worship Frank Lloyd Wright. Better deal? Maybe. Anyway, I figured, OK definitely gotta read this one. Kismet.
Vanessa Michael Munroe is the Informationist. I’m a bit thick. I never got the ‘Michael’ part despite it being explained. It never really came into play and could easily have been left out. The Informationist part was also explained and also could have been left out. What would remain is a compelling central character: Munroe, an ass-kicking heroine first class. The author has given her an appropriately tragic background from which she freed herself. The background also gives us some richly drawn characters who have become loyal friends and aides in times of need.
Vanessa/Michael is asked to find the missing daughter of a wealthy businessman. She gets a babysitter in the form of Miles Bradford. She tolerates the well intentioned lug, while we readers suspect him of treachery. They tangle with authorities, nasty people, impossible situations, spies following them, etc. etc. This may sound like a typical mystery/thriller, but there are two things that separate it: 1) Excellent writing. Taylor Stevens has a literary bend in her somewhere that gives us great some great scenery. Descriptive passages are rarely found in thrillers because they slow down the action. She gets into and out of several passages with the right balance. Readers have not lost their feel for the story and are impressed by the phrasing. Nice. 2) Odd pacing & direction. Ascribing this to a debut author, it often is a deal-killer for a recommendation. In this case, it actually helps the story by keeping it unpredictable. Annoying to some, but I’ll take unpredictable any day.
What we readers love about mystery-thrillers is the guessing game. Whodunnit? If we call the bad-guy correctly, but are only 60% sure by the time we get to the author’s revealing, we gloat and beat our chests (provided we are alone). My wife and I are somewhat competitive about it, writing down page numbers and names and gloating over the other for days. Erasures are not allowed (anymore). I got to gloat for this one. I saw it very early due to my knowledge of cult survivors. I believe everyone else in the world will be in my wife’s camp, thrilled to the bitter end.
Definitely put this one in your “must read” pile. And put the author on your “keep an eye out for her” list.
Peace, Seeley James