Friday, February 01, 2013

THE DOLL by Taylor Stevens

I loved THE INFORMATIONIST. I loved THE INNOCENT. So I was excited for a chance to review the latest thriller featuring Vanessa/Michael Monroe. My review of THE DOLL is "Meh." Let me be more specific. What I loved about the first two novels in the series, in a word: Michael. This entry has less Michael and less-believable Michael, both of which took away from the enjoyment for me. Michael is a fabulous, edgy, resourceful female heroine (who often transforms into a man when it's expedient for her missions). She's also a sociopath, but since she uses her powers mostly for good, I'm okay with that. Michael is the reason I read Taylor Stevens. So what happened with THE DOLL?

Stevens makes Bradford and his team more of a focus in THE DOLL. Nothing against Bradford and company, but their missions/actions are simply not as interesting to me. Bradford is more like "insert your favorite action hero here" and less...fresh and interesting than Michael. His part of the story (which is substantial) feels like a Jerry Bruckheimer/Michael Bay movie: perfectly serviceable and fun with popcorn, but not particularly meaty or insightful. Michael is complex and nuanced and her methods are unpredictable.

Speaking of Michael, her character took on a very odd twist that seemed inconsistent with the previous two novels. Logan, her dear friend, has been kidnapped and beaten by a man known as the Dollmaker (I'll get to him in a minute) in order to "persuade" Michael to deliver actress Neeva Eckridge to a man who has bought her from the Dollmaker for his personal entertainment. Michael has surprisingly few qualms about handing Neeva over to slavery with a psycho so that she can keep Logan safe. I felt this complex situation deserved more thought and reflection from Michael, but she focuses on accomplishing her goal to rescue Logan.

As a villain, the Dollmaker was more annoying than anything else. He's completely insane and delivers women and girls into unspeakable horror for profit, but his odd personal habits offset his menace and he reads cartoonish, in an unsatisfying way. In THE INFORMATIONIST, Michael is forced to confront her past, in THE INNOCENT, she infiltrates a cult, and in THE DOLL...she cooperates with a nutjob who dresses kidnapped women as oversized porcelain dolls and contemplates his extensive doll collection (actual dolls, not humans). It's anticlimactic. The first two novels had very meaty, rich plots, while THE DOLL feels less substantial, less nuanced.

All that said, I still recommend this book to thriller fans. It was just disappointing to me after the excellent first two books in the series.

Source disclosure: I received an e-galley of this title from the publisher.

No comments: