Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Doll

A Vanessa Michael Munroe Novel
By Taylor Stevens
Crown Publishers, 335 pgs
Submitted by Crown Publishers
Rating: 4.5

And they're off! The Doll bursts out of the starting gate like Secretariat at Aqueduct. This is no exaggeration: page one and our heroine is darted like a bear and kidnapped by homicidal Croatians masquerading as paramedics in an ambulance stolen from the city of Dallas. Miles Bradford, lover, PTSD-sufferer, spy extraordinaire and Boy Robin, witnesses the scene from his office window.

This sets off a vicious romp across countries, oceans and continents but not in search of Michael, oh no, Michael can more than handle herself. Turns out she's been "hired" by The Doll Maker, a bat-shit crazy, child-sex-slave trafficking, scum of the earth, who only passes as human because he has opposable thumbs. Michael is being coerced into delivering a particularly valuable "package" (read: kidnapped woman) to a client, as penance for what The Doll Maker sees as her past transgressions against his organization and revenue stream. The Doll Maker's minions have kidnapped Logan, the person Michael is closest to in all the world, in order to ensure her cooperation. But watch what happens when she turns the tables.

This is the third installment in the best-selling saga of Vanessa Michael Munroe - chameleon, language-savant, assassin, righteous dispenser of justice. The first volume is The Informationist, the second The Innocent, both of which have been reviewed on this blog previously. Michael is a female protagonist like none before. She is something truly new under the sun: physically, mentally and emotionally courageous, just like plenty of real women. There are no wasted pages spent on improbable romantic entanglements, no "female" squishiness here. There are facts and logic and strategy and tactics - good lord it's so freeing! And there is the necessary kill. Or a dozen, maybe, who's counting?

In evidence of Michael's reputation, instructions given to the kidnappers, page 22:
Do not let her hear your language, the source had said, she will use language as a weapon. Keep the area around her free of objects, everything will be used as a weapon. Stay clear of her reach, she doesn't need a weapon to kill you. Don't use restraints, she will find a way out of them, and they will only give a false sense of safety. Do not touch her, the source said. Leave her in peace, and treat her respectfully, only then will the violence stay muted. Disrespect these and make no mistake, she will kill you.
As long as I'm offering samples, here is an example of the way Michael absorbs and assimilates sensory information:
Not real speech, a recording. She could tell that even from this drug-induced haze. She stretched fingertips to the wall and heard from touch the same story told by the smell of this place. Dank. Damp. Buried.
One more. Michael has a knife fetish, upon lifting a knife off a bad guy:
The handle connected with her palm like a creation returning to its mold, metal against skin, familiar and soothing. 
Taylor Stevens
I really can't quibble with anything here. The writing is improving on schedule, as it should with a third book. The dialogue is genuine. The pacing is nearly perfect - there are no lulls in the action here. The characterizations are true. The plot is unique to the genre - exactly what genre is this? Taylor Stevens may be inventing a new one and how exciting is that?  Just when you think you know where the plot is headed, it arrives in another location entirely. You think you've got it figured out but there are a hundred pages left and what's up with that? And then the tale takes off again, racing onward to a conclusion unexpected, complicated and immensely satisfying.


  1. I just finished reading The Doll and really enjoyed it. I could hardly put it down! Thanks for your recommendation.

  2. want to be entered in the giveaway for the doll