Read by Hillary Huber
Length: 13 Hrs 46 Min
Quick Thoughts:In The Doll, Taylor strips away the trappings of her writing and presents a balls to the wall fast paced action thriller that will leave the reader awash in adrenaline soaked bliss. While her normal touches are still there, her vivid international setting, her complicated character’s unique skill set and her spin on typical action hero motivations, the action in The Doll is crisp and mean which makes it the most satisfying entry in an already excellent series.
Sometimes I think that egomaniacal super villains are their own worst enemies. I’ll be the first to admit these masters of the criminal element are intelligent people, they have to be in order to put together their international crime cartel and keep it running in a sea of scumbags and degenerates. Yet, there comes a point were the brutal simplicity of being the worst of the worst just isn’t enough. They have to start playing with their food, brutalizing their enemies with more and more complicated schemes until each plan needs to become more elaborate, each enemy more skilled and the box they build for them more perfect. You would think that the best way for these people to survive would be to keep the most skilled crime fighters unaware of their existence. Yet, instead they attempt to draw them into elaborate traps. These traps are often well conceived, devious and as close to perfect as perfect can get. Yet, there is one fatal flaw, they put a piece on the board that never should be there, and force them into THAT moment. For every one of these evil schemes leads the heroes of the tale to THAT moment. THAT moment where all hope is stripped away, where the trap seems perfect, where the hero has nothing else to lose. That’s when things start to go wrong. Now, our evil maniacal leader doesn’t have a highly skilled operator forced into a situation where they use their skills to help their evil plans, no, instead they have a highly skilled operator whose one sole motivation is to deal death and destruction to them in whatever form they can. A desperate trapped animal is the most dangerous type of animal there is and this is the most likely outcome of their evil scheme. So, evil egomaniacal super villain, maybe dial it down a notch, sure, play with your food a bit, but maybe lay off the motivating highly skilled individuals to reign hell fire down on your head. You’ll live longer.
In the latest thriller by Taylor Stevens, Vanessa Michael Monroe is kidnapped by an international human trafficking ring, and forced into an elaborate trap. Either she delivers a young starlet, uninjured and undrugged, to the sadistic man who arranged her purchase, or those she loves will be horrifically killed. While Michael attempts to find a way of this trap, her lover Bradford attempts to locate and rescue her brother, the cartel’s bargaining chip against Michael. In The Doll, Taylor strips away the trappings of her writing and presents a balls to the wall fast paced action thriller that will leave the reader awash in adrenaline soaked bliss. While her normal touches are still there, her vivid international setting, her complicated character’s unique skill set and her spin on typical action hero motivations, the action in The Doll is crisp and mean which makes it the most satisfying entry in an already excellent series. I am always skeptical of “The Best Series Edition Yet” and “She Keeps Getting Better and Better” type of reviews. What Steven does is a bit different, she seems to reinvent her writing style each new entry, keeping her wonderfully conceived character the same, but telling her tale in a way the illuminates a new aspect of her life. Some may like the new style, while others may long for a return to older styles. Me, I loved every moment of it. The Doll is a more traditional thriller, less back story, less reliance on Michael’s past yet still informed by it. The plot is full of elaborate cat and mouse schemes, car chases and gun play, but told in the intelligent plotting manner the author excels at. Stevens also manages to create an intriguing relationship between Michael and her captured charge, one she utilizes well for emotional manipulation. I also liked that we got to see a bit more of Bradford acting independently from Michael. I think this was the first time I began to truly understand and embrace this character as his own person, and not just Michael’s love interest and reliable partner. The Doll is a thriller with action that rivals Robert Ludlum and Lee Child, yet with a character that elevates it above simple chasy, explody, shooty fun. The Doll is easily my favorite action thriller of 2013 so far, and may place Vanessa Michael Munroe up there in my mind with the likes of THE Jacks (Bauer and Reacher) who, I think she could probably take in a fight. Well, maybe.
Once again Taylor Steven’s novel is brought to life in the hands and vocal styling’s of Hillary Huber. One of the things I love about this series is how carefully and deliberately Huber delivers the action scenes. Often with action, a narrator ups the pace, creating tension through rapid fire prose. Yet, Huber actually slows it down, highlighting the intelligent action, allowing us to follow each one of Michael’s complicated though processes as she makes each decision within a world of snipers, car chases and bratty starlets. I have always been a big fan of Huber’s unique voice. She brings a maturity and gravitas to her characterizations, that forces to you pay attention to each character, no matter how vapid you may feel they are at first glance. While there wasn’t as many international accents in this entry, Huber excels at capturing the unique settings and giving us authentic sounding characters of all ages, sexes and nationalities. The Doll works well as a standalone thriller, but why do that to yourself? If you haven’t yet listened to this series, grab yourself a copy of The Informationist, and spend some time with the wonderful duo of Taylor Stevens and Hilary Huber.
Note: Thanks to Random House Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.