“There was something deeply affecting about language. If expected, it meant nothing. But if it came by surprise as a gesture of friendship, it was an instant opening, a form of flattery guaranteed to attain the objective for its master.”
Vanessa “Michael” Munroe does not take orders, particularly not from rich men. When she is offered a truly absurd amount of money to find a Texas oil billionaire’s step-daughter, she has doubts about returning to the stomping-ground of her youth; yet to track down Emily she will not only have to go back to Equatorial Guinea, but she will have to tolerate being babysat by Burbank’s eminently handsome mercenary, Miles Bradford.
The first thing to note is that Munroe is very similar to Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander. She is damaged and reacts very negatively to human connections. She is bizarrely talented (in Munroe’s case, she knows an absurd and really quite implausible number of languages) and attuned to the enemy’s evil intentions. Nevertheless, she is quite different to Salander – more personable, reckless in a different sort of way, and her interpersonal relationships or lack thereof are less… disturbed… than Salander’s.
Stevens has written a plot fast-paced enough to keep a reader on their toes, while permitting for occasional introspective phases in which Munroe’s demons air their grievances and she appears to almost lose control of herself. The setting is sufficiently obscure and remote that anything might happen there, and despite a large amount of travelling, the pace of the characters’ movements seemed plausible. What would have been extremely helpful would be a map of Equatorial Guinea, where the vast majority of the action takes place. There was a lot of travel south and around islands and it was all a bit confusing.
That said, I was rather more impressed with this debut than I expected to be, and I will be looking out for the next of Munroe’s adventures.