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Monday, August 31, 2015

Meet Vanessa Michael Munroe--a Female Jason Bourne

I rated this book 4 out of 5 stars This is the first installment of the Vanessa Michael Munroe series that I've read, although it is the fifth of six installments available. The author states that this is a stand alone action adventure and it is, but the constant referral to Munroe's teen years and her struggle for survival that seems to have turned her into a emotionless reactor to her surroundings leaves the reader at a loss for detail. It is enough, though I wasn't crazy about this book, to entice me to read the first book. Perhaps starting at the beginning would make the heroine more appealing, Here we find Vanessa, obviously a woman and flaunted by author and publisher the next best thing to " catwoman in plain clothes, Lisbeth Salander sans Dragon Tatoo, Jack Reacher with an extra X chromosome ( a genetic disorder XXY I seem to recall from my days of teaching biology) ", posing as a 19 year old boy, Michael. This is explained away by the fact that women aren't safe in the places where this superwoman operates. Quite true, Somalia, Kenya, etc tend to have problems with knife wielding --two fisted I might add--female mercenaries or whatever she is. It isn't quite clear, though it would seem that she is working for a marine security outfit out of Djibouti. What is also not clear is whether her boss just doesn't like Michael, a white African from Cameroon, or whether he, Leo, thinks his wife, Amber, has the hots for the cute teenager. That is another issue not clearly defined. What is the relationship between Amber and Michael and how does it change, if it does, once Amber learns that Michael is not a he? One of those strands left dangling though not terribly important to the plot--just curious--as though the author wasn't sure what she wanted to do with that situation. So as not to keep the androgynous thing going too long, Michael very soon is referred to as Munroe when named at all. The action and pace is exciting but once more the repetition gets in the way of the reader's own response. In case our own heart rate does not increase we are alerted to the rush of adrenaline Munroe experiences whenever she is cornered. Once she has gotten out of the fix, we are allowed to relax and recover and we are told there has been an adrenaline dump. This would be fine the first or second time things get iffy but each time interrupts the action. So, too, does the repetition of the pain Munroe is suffering throughout the second half of the book, resulting from a severe beating. The repetition of the ingestion of pain killers, the repetition of the blood lust she cannot control when pushed too far and the God awful repetition of the stench of body odor, rotting vegetation, human waste etc in almost every place Munroe finds herself. Like Munroe, the reader is grateful for the few times a shower, change of clothes and clean linens make their appearance. If this review tends to focus on many descriptive issues rather than the plot it is because the plot is so padded with these distractions. When Munroe is out and about, tracking down why the ship on which she has been assigned to protect is hijacked by Somali pirates, who hired them, where the bad guys are and how to thwart them, when she is skulking in dark alleys and on crowded buses and finding allies to rescue the crew of the hijacked ship and her fellow armed protectors, the story is exciting and riveting. It is a fast read and the ending is a thing of wonder --she is indeed a female Jason Bourne--all action and organization and stealth. If you like him, you'll like her--but she is a she, and so , unlike Jason there is a bit of nose wrinkling and lightheadedness and debilitating pain--well, at least, he doesn't dwell on it so much! "I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

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