The Mask is certainly a stand-alone novel. The back story of Miles and Munroe, her inner demons, her upbringing and abusive "training," her language ability, and her knife fetish are all there and familiar to Stevens's readers, but they take a back seat to the plot. Stevens very effectively piques interest in Munroe's past, enough that readers will want to revisit prior novels, without retelling her story or distracting the reader with lots of flashback scenes.
As usual, Stevens immerses the reader in Munroe's world. I found her observations of Japanese corporate culture to be very interesting, as well as her descriptions of Japanese street life, home life, and domestic culture. In terms of the story, the reader is kept as much in the dark as Munroe is. Slowly Munroe pulls the pieces together, leaving us with a powerful, bloody, justice-serving climax.
This is one of Stevens's best efforts yet, due, in part, to the foundation she has built with the prior novels. Munroe is well-developed and powerfully written. I don't know where she will go from here, but I have a feeling I'll enjoy the ride.
Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!