The Innocent by Taylor Stevens

A whirlwind thriller about a seriously ass-kicking female renegade’s battle against a hair-raising cult.

In this sequel to The Informationist, Vanessa Michael Munroe is back. Taylor Stevens‘s heroine has been compared to Jack Reacher, Jason Bourne and Lisbeth Sanders, and evokes each–but also possesses certain qualities all her own.

The traumatized Munroe, facing her horrific past every time she tries to sleep, vacillates between insomnia and drug-induced oblivion. Her private battles are interrupted, though, when her old friend Logan shows up begging for her help. Eight years ago, when she was five, Hannah was kidnapped by members of a religious cult called The Chosen. As a former member, Logan know first-hand how desperate her situation must be–and though his gruesome childhood is not quite like Munroe’s, he has an understanding of her damaged soul. Now, eight years after her capture, Logan finally knows Hannah’s location, and he needs the help of Munroe to free her. But to get Hannah out of The Chosen, Munroe will have to go in.

The Innocent is tight and fast-paced, an adrenaline rush of a novel with vibrant settings ranging from Morocco to Buenos Aires and characters who jump off the page. The descriptions of The Chosen’s abuses of its own members are heartwrenching; Stevens’s own experience in such a world makes this semiautobiographical novel’s emotional impact even stronger. But the story’s greatest strength may be Munroe herself: gender-bending, starkly violent, as lethal with her bare hands as she is with a knife, she steals the reader’s heart, tortured psyche and all.

This review originally ran in the January 10, 2012 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!

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