For The Associated Press

The Innocent:
a Vanessa Michael
Munroe Novel
by Taylor Stevens
Crown Publishers

Taylor Stevens’ 2010 debut, “The Informationist,” was a smartly written action thriller featuring a freelance espionage agent whose survival skills and intellect were wrought out of a violent past, and whose ability to extract herself from harrowing situations in which she is heavily outnumbered is arguably matched only by James Bond (and possibly Batman).

Now Vanessa “Michael” Munroe is back in “The Innocent,” having agreed to rescue a child who was abducted eight years earlier and brought into a secretive and well-protected cult known as The Chosen, based in Argentina. The people who have hired her are survivors of that cult. They understand the mindset, and while their insights are a boon for Munroe, their participation threatens a successful extraction.

Munroe is also plagued by nightmares in which she relives the violence from her last mission, and she’s turned to self-medicating to combat them. While the nightmares are depicted just as terrifyingly as the waking dangers that Munroe faces — the toll they take on her psyche is vividly described — the dangers inherent in her drug use never quite materialize in the same way.

And maybe they’re not supposed to. Munroe is trusted by readers. Her team may protest and worry, but we know she’ll emerge victorious. Scarred, but victorious.

Fans of thrillers who haven’t yet discovered Stevens are in for a treat, though starting with “The Informationist” is recommended. Those who have eagerly awaited this sequel will be delighted to find the same intelligent writing, masterful pacing, and tense and fluid action scenes that feel ready-made for the cinema, and an intensely emotional core that lends Stevens’ novel a depth not often found in the genre.

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