I’m not usually one for thrillers, but when I was sent Taylor Stevens’ The Informationist, I thought I’d give it a go. It’s the first in a series about a cross-dressing, multi-lingual information hunter called Vanessa ‘Michael’ Munroe.
A Texas oil billionaire hires Munroe to solve the disappearance of his adopted daughter, who went tragically missing on her travels through Africa. Munroe, who spent most of her youth in Africa, specialises in using local knowledge, an incredible knack for languages and the instincts of a hunter to get the results no one else can – and for 2.5 million dollars, she agrees to head back to the continent that haunts her to find Emily Burbank.
Will she be able to shrug off the vigilant guard her employer has sent with her? Can she revive a trail that’s been cold for four years? Who has sent the people following her and why do they want to kill her – what do they have to hide? These are the obstacles Munroe must face in her quest to find Emily and they are not her only troubles. Returning to Africa will force her to finally face demons and ghosts she has long kept at bay and unexpected events leave her wondering who in her life she can really trust.
Reading this book reminded me of when I used to go on holiday with my family and, having finished all the books I had with me, I’d end up reading my dad’s Wilbur Smiths or Ian Rankins. I always got hooked in the end – in fact, I got massively attached to Inspector Rebus – there’s still something really appealing about a book that functions as a puzzle to solve.
One thing I liked about this particular book was its African setting – it was an interesting look into countries I knew absolutely nothing about, like Namibia and Equatorial Guinea.
Unlike some thrillers, The Informationist wasn’t overly predictable – Taylor Stevens keeps you guessing. As Publishers Weekly point out, the comparisons between Michael Munroe and Lisbeth Salander are easy to make – but I thought Stevens’ attempt at a 3D heroine was much more successful than Larsson’s – and Stevens didn’t bother with the tedious descriptions about ‘Power PC 7451 processors’ and the like that so plagued Larsson’s book.
Don’t get me wrong, the book is still a crime thriller, not a literary classic, but it’s not trying to be. What it offers is a slice of fast-paced escapism with a quirky heroine, some surprising twists and a satisfying ending. No doubt my dad would love it – and for me, it beats The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo hands down.