Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
The Doll is a thriller, suspense novel written by Taylor Stevens that focuses on the main character in her other books, Vanessa Michael Munroe. The title suggests some kind of master puppeteer pulling all the strings, which ties in very well with the plot of the whole story. Taken from the book’s summary:
Haunted by a life of violence and as proficient with languages as she is with knives, Vanessa Michael Munroe, chameleon and hunter, has built her life on a reputation for getting things done—dangerous and often not-quite-legal things. The ability to survive, fight, adapt, and blend has since taken her across the globe on behalf of corporations, heads of state, and the few private clients who can afford her unique brand of expertise, and these abilities have made her enemies.
On a busy Dallas street, Munroe is kidnapped by an unseen opponent and thrust into an underground world where women and girls are merchandise and a shadowy figure known as The Doll Maker controls her every move. While trusted friends race to find her, everything pivots on one simple choice: Munroe must use her unique set of skills to deliver a high-profile young woman into the same nightmare that she once endured, or condemn to torture and certain death the one person she loves above all else.
In this high-octane thriller Munroe will have to fight fast, smart, and furious to overcome a dangerous nemesis and deliver her trademark brand of justice.
Right from page one, Stevens throws us into the world of Vanessa Michael Munroe. This book is definitely a page-turner. I didn’t stop reading until I finished the book. The intensity of the action and the curiosity about where Munroe would go just pulls the reader in. I especially enjoyed seeing the whole story through all of the character’s eyes. Stevens brings you to the height of the thrill chase and then changes direction by switching characters. Just when you think you’re going to find out about how Munroe and Neeva will fare in their shared car ride, the storyline switches to Bradford and his team back in America. The switch keeps the reader on their toes, making Munroe’s next appearance that much more anticipated.
The switching of perspectives also brings a great look into one of the main antagonists of the story, Valon Fumani. I really enjoyed the interactions between Fumani and Munroe. He had hopes and dreams that were brutally crushed and he reached out for a companion in Munroe except she doesn’t bite. Stevens turns Fumani from a minor antagonist into a well-rounded character. By the end of the book, I found myself rooting for him to gain some kind of closure to his problem. So it was a bit of a letdown that Stevens let that angle just disappear, ending in the way that she did. It didn’t feel like closure to me.
Munroe is a character used by Stevens in her other novels, and as such, I felt Stevens didn’t really take the time to go more in depth in Munroe’s character. For someone who has read the other novels, perhaps The Doll gives another chapter to Munroe’s life as a multi-linguist, Bond-esque persona, but as a standalone it falls short. The novel hints at bits and pieces of Munroe’s background but never gives any explanations or background so it just seems a little forced, or kind of acts as a reminder to the reader that Munroe is capable of all the feats she does in the novel because of such-and-such training. It’s a shame, since that extra touch to Munroe’s character would have brought Munroe to life as a real person instead of just a two-dimensional character.
In her novel of racing against the clock, Stevens manages to add in a touch of cultural and social awareness into the mix. Neeva, the girl Munroe must save, is a victim of human sex trafficking. I think it was great of Stevens to bring such an important topic that is generally not spoken of in America into her novel in such a large way. Her character, Neeva, punches straight to the heart of the matter when she says,
This doll-guy situation is an extreme of what I deal with in everyday life…Where men believe that what they want I want, and they project that on to me and then blame me, curse me, when I don’t respond the way they’ve fantasized, like it’s some personal attack on them, like they’re entitled to something….the dangerous ones, they just go a step further and take it anyway. Then they blame you and the way you look for what they did What’s worse is that a lot of the time, society blames you, too.
In this brilliant monologue, Stevens manages to capture the problem of how women are viewed in society and how men respond to it into one neat little package. Anyone reading this line has to take a step back and go “Whoa” when they read that line.
The book, while leading us on a great chase throughout, ends on a bit of a blah note. Everything wraps up nice and neat, a sort of brown paper packaging without any ribbon on top. It left me a little wanting, but all’s well that ends well. I’d change it, but that would spoil the surprise [no spoilers].
Overall, I found The Doll to be a fast-paced thriller, not too much adventure mixed in, with some memorable minor characters and less memorable main characters. I would recommend perhaps reading The Informationist and The Innocent first if they contain more about Vanessa Michael Munroe as a character [though I myself have not read them] before reading The Doll to fully enjoy the Michael Munroe experience. Anyone who enjoys a quick read and a suspense similar to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will want to pick this up. I seriously finished this in a day.
I give this 3.5 stars out of 5.
When I chose this book from Blogging for Books, I thought it was written by a guy. Taylor is a guy’s name. Plus the last name is Stevens. So imagine my surprise when the book arrived and the picture on the back is of a woman. Surprise! Sorry Taylor.