Taylor Stevens – “The Informationist”

“Blazingly brilliant.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“A thriller of the highest caliber.” –  Colin Harrison

“Utterly smashing debut.” – Tess Gerritsen

“Could have used a rewrite.” – me.

The hype. The hype. I’m sure I read “The Informationist” with the hype rattling around in the back of my head. And several times while reading it I thought about starting a new pledge form. A simple on-line seal-of-approval pledge form that would guarantee to the innocent reading public that the reviewer or blurb writer had read every word of the book. Every word.

Publisher’s Weekly went onto to call “The Informationist” a “high-octane page turner.”

Maybe you’re turning the pages so fast you don’t read the details?

I don’t mean to be so negative—and certainly the set-up of “The Informationist” holds plenty of appeal.  An unusual setting, an international search for a missing teenager, intrigue about those who are bankrolling the hunt. “The Informationist” features Vanessa “Michael” Munroe and she is one-note angry.

“The Informationist” is strong on action—with many slower parts interspersed. I may not know what constitutes a “high-octane” restaurant scene. “The conversation had already been interrupted several times by the attentive waitstaff, and it took a longer pause with the arrival of the main course. The discussion strayed from small talk to the similar aspects of their work to small talk again…”

I never felt grounded in the world of Vanessa “Michael” Munroe. I was told lots of “information” about Munroe, never understood her talents. I was told lots of information about what motivates her, never felt connected to her seething anger.

And when she Munroe gets angry, the men in her way better get out of the way. It’s in the action scenes where I wished—hoped—for plausibility.

“She struck like a mamba. Deadly. Silent. Fast. Without a sound the keys tore through the man’s neck, replacing his trachea with a gaping hole.”  Without a sound?

“She gritted her teeth, yanked her right thumb out of its socket, squeezed the hand free of the restraint, and then relocated the thumb with a silent, painful snap.” Isn’t a “snap” (by definition?) a sound? How can it be silent?

A few moments later, she is thrown overboard with a boat anchor wrapped around her legs. (This not a small boat.) “The plunge stopped ten yards below the boat, and still the anchor held tight around her left ankle. Her lungs ached for air, and in panic she clawed at the chain. No time. Think. She forced her fingers between her foot and the chain, bought an inch, and then was free. She kicked off the ocean floor….”

I have such a hard time picturing the action.  She “bought an inch?” She was ten yards below the boat but suddenly on the ocean floor?  (These kinds of passages wouldn’t fly at the fiction-writing critique groups I’ve attended.)

The head-scratching moments add up.  And the bigger plot wends and weaves and meanders and you have to go along with Munroe’s ability to cross international borders, speak a zillion languages and anticipate every violent moment that’s just around corner.

“The Informationist” is fluffy and light, not built for thinking or word-by-word reading.

Questions:

Who wants to take the pledge?

Any suggestions for “high-octane” thrillers where the action-sequence details are perfect?

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