Monday, June 29, 2015

The Mask, by Taylor Stevens

Taylor Stevens is back with another Vanessa Michael Munroe story, The Mask.  After fighting pirates in Djibouti, Munroe takes off for Japan, for a rendezvous with her old lover Miles Bradford.  He's working a corporate security job there, and she comes to hang out and recover.  Soon she asks Miles to put her to work, wanting to help him with his assignment at the biotech company where he's employed.  He demurs, until he's framed for murder.  Frustrated with his lack of communication before his arrest, Munroe finds a trail he left for her, enabling her to step into his old job, track down who framed Miles, and uncover layers of corruption, theft, and betrayal in the company.

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! 

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