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by Taylor Stevens
Crown, June 2013
352 pages
ISBN: 0307888789

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

If readers are looking for nonstop action, they will find it in Taylor Stevens' latest book in the series featuring Vanessa Michael Munroe. The action begins with the opening scene and doesn't take a break through the entire novel.

Unlike many thrillers overloaded with action sequences, many in THE DOLL are unusual in that the crime-solver herself is a captive of evil forces. Thus, Munroe is forced to carry out the group's malevolent plans, with an awareness that every countermove she makes must be carefully designed to ensure she does not end up in an even worse position.

Unfortunately, those plans include human trafficking, in particular delivering the "doll” (a young actress dressed as such) to her buyer. This makes the storyline a very dark one. Where other novels might let readers up for air occasionally, this book delivers no such relief. As a result, it is difficult at times to keep going with such bleak prospects for so many of the characters.

It is only the wiles of Munroe and her home team (who are working with very little to go on besides two missing persons) that keep the reader from giving up entirely. There's very little humanity in this book, as one could argue is true for the business of human trafficking. Munroe, too, can be an icy figure, with steely reserve, and while that ensures her survival, it makes it a bit harder to relate to or cheer for her (except that the other side is without any redeeming value whatsoever).

As a result, this dark mystery is only for those with the most cast iron of resolves. While it highlights an important global problem, it may leave even the hardiest of mystery readers fatigued by its end. Vanessa Michael Munroe has been compared with Lisbeth Salander, but some readers may find her even bleaker.

§ Christine Zibas is a freelance writer and former director of publications for a Chicago nonprofit.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, June 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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