Read by Hillary Huber
Length: 12 Hrs 26 Min
Quick Thoughts: The Innocent is a smart taunt thriller, where information and well thought out plans are just as much weapons as knives and guns. Steven’s latest novel is highlighted by the realistic portrayal of her broken protagonist, who struggles to truly understand her reactions to the violence that comes with her work.
I don’t know much about cults. Oh, I am familiar with the media’s presentations of infamous cults like Heaven’s Gate and the Branch Davidians. I have also followed some of the stories about extremist Mormon polygamist cults. Yet, typically when we get these stories, it’s because of the aftermath of some horrid event, or controversial policy of the cults. Until the damage is done, cults tend not to be very news worthy. Growing up in an evangelical fundamentalist church, I used to hear the word cult thrown around pretty willy nilly. Some would say that any religious group was a cult, if they didn’t truly follow the one way, including other protestant denominations that put too much focus on minor aspects of the Bible. This, of course from a church, who at one point in time, believed that the King James Version of the Bible was the only true form of the Bible, and totally submersion was the required form of Baptism. In fiction, I rarely find a story dealing with a "cult" that has the feel of authenticity. They either want some grand conspiracy of devil worshipers, or some militia style group with a religious trapping. It never came off as more than a literary trick to create instant bad guys for our kick ass main character to shovel revenge upon. Yet, listening to Taylor Steven’s The Innocent, you could just feel the authenticity in the writing. Stevens never tries to over sensationalize the topic or make it some mass grand conspiracy. Her main character isn’t getting revved up to exact violence upon this group of evil doers. The authenticity comes from its intimacy. In The Innocent, Vanessa Michael Munroe is attempting to rescue one child, to pull her from a destructive situation, ands into the arms of people who truly love her, and will protect her.
While I found Taylor Stevens first novel, The Informationist, to be a unique and fascinating thriller, I wasn’t expecting her to be able to top it with the next installment, yet she did. Stevens again utterly impressed me with the intelligence of her thriller. Vanessa Michael Monroe, called Michael by most people, is one of the more realistic thriller series characters I have encountered. I love the fact that she doesn’t just bounce back from the events of The Informationist like it was another day at the office. Michael is affected by the violence and killing. She also suffers from sort of tainted spirit, a feeling that the exhilaration she gets from her actions makes her just as bad as those she brought to justice. Yet, when she is asked by her best friend Logan to rescue a young girl named Hannah who was kidnapped from her mother by the cult called the Chosen, she chooses to pull herself together and take on a job that she is uniquely qualified to perform. The Innocent isn’t the fast paced ultra violent non-stop thriller that many people may expect. Michael moves deliberately, taking calculated steps to increase the likelihood of success while minimizing collateral damage. Yet, while each move is well thought out and information is valued over violence, when the time for action and violence comes, Michael, and Stevens the author, deliver with tension building moments and well plotted action sequences. One thing that I especially liked was that the true denouement of the piece isn’t some violent shootout that brings the bad guys down in a wave of blood. The resolution of the plot isn’t achieved by violence, but by Michael’s personal understanding of what needs to be done to start the transition of this broken girl back into a safe protective, and loving environment. The Innocent is a smart taunt thriller, where information and well thought out plans are just as much weapons as knives and guns. Steven’s latest novel is highlighted by the realistic portrayal of her broken protagonist, who struggles to truly understand her reactions to the violence that comes with her work.
Hilary Huber has now narrated both of Taylor Steven’s novels. What truly struck me while listening to Huber’s reading was how well she seemed to understand the character of Vanessa Michael Monroe as well as what the author was trying to achieve with the book. Huber reads in a deliberate, methodical pace. Her pace highlights the meticulous planning of the characters as well as the intricacies of the plot. Even during the action scenes, Huber maintains her deliberate reading allowing Stevens words to create the tension. Huber seems to understand that she needed no change of pace tricks to make the action come alive. Also, I loved how her tones matched the development of Michael’s character. In the beginning, she is read with an almost lifeless tone matching the character’s state of mind. So, at times when dealing with her partner Bradford, or best friend Logan,, and especially when dealing with Hannah, Huber’s infusion of life into Michael’s voice made those moments resonate even stronger. This second chapter in the story of Vanessa Michael Monroe is a wonderful thriller and a logical follow up The Informationist.