The Innocent by Taylor Stevens

The Innocent by Taylor StevensThe Innocent by Taylor Stevens
Narrator: Hillary Huber
Series: Vanessa Michael Munroe #2
Published by Random House Audio on 12/27/11
Genres: Suspense

 

Book: B+
Narration: B+

The nightmares were getting worse. When you’re afraid to sleep next to someone because you’ve woken up with tangled sheets and, oh, yes, a pair of knives stabbed into the mattress next to you, it’s time to take action. For Vanessa Michael Munroe, the solution is exactly that. Always at her best (and with her inner demons at their most subdued) when she is constantly in motion, Munroe accedes to a plea from her best friend Logan to help him find and recover Hannah, a thirteen year-old girl and former member of a cult known as The Chosen. Kidnapped by her mother’s boyfriend and spirited away to South America, Hannah is being shuttled between the cult’s various compounds in an effort to keep her hidden. A trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina in the company of Logan and two other former members of The Chosen starts Munroe walking a dangerous high-wire where the only one she can truly trust is her back-up man, Miles Bradford. Finding the compound where Hannah is being held and infiltrating the cult is a task made more difficult as Munroe deals with the hidden agendas and power plays within her team and her own nightmares and memories dredged up by the accusations of child abuse within the cult.

This is going to be a pretty simple review and I’ll just let you know in advance, if you’re looking for a reason you shouldn’t listen to this audiobook I won’t be providing you with one. Every now and then I pick up an audiobook that just sucks me in and when I emerge from the other side of it, all I remember is the rush of the ride and none of the rocks I may have bounced off along the way. This is one of those books. If I sat down and thought it through could I come up with some negative comments? Possibly. The reason I didn’t write any comments down while listening is the same reason I don’t have criticism to offer: this audiobook provided a completely immersive experience and even in retrospect, I only re-experience the slow build of tension, the moments of lightning quick violence, the vivid settings, and the well-developed characters that seemed almost real. My analytical half never makes it past the “dang, that was an excellent story” reaction to arrive at any type of critical structural break-down.

Munroe is a fascinating character and in the second book in this series the reader gets more insight into the complexity of her psychological makeup as well as the changes she’s undergoing based on events in the previous book and the choices she makes in this one. Much of the story is from Munroe’s viewpoint but when there is a shift in POV, it’s seamless and works well to further the story. In fact, there are several instances where a very dramatic scene begins from Munroe’s point of view but ends with the reader seeing the conclusion or aftermath from another character’s point of view. Some readers may find that disrupts the tension of action scenes but I appreciated the way it subtly echoed Munroe’s tendency to slip into an almost fugue state when threatened. It also worked extremely well at weaving together these character’s lives even tighter and providing a very organic feel to events, where the consequences of our actions are only fully realized later or through someone else’s eyes.  The story plays itself out with both a sense of inevitability, like a boulder building speed down a long slope, as well as sharp moments of violence. Layered in with the physical action that drives the story forward are the instances of recognition and connection the reader can find with any/all of these fully-formed characters.

Hillary Huber’s narration was excellent. I often take issue with the performance of narrators who present with a very specific and structured cadence but in this case, Huber’s rough voice and deliberate pacing and delivery admirably ratchets up the tension and adeptly portrays Munroe’s moral ambivalence and matter-of-fact attitude toward doing what needs to be done. The characters are easy to track through sections of dialogue and I experienced an almost physical shiver while listening to the voices given two specific characters whose belief in what they were doing, combined with the fact that what they did was just wrong, was masterfully blended together to create a complex vocal portrayal.

This was a great listen and I recommend it but I think you’ll enjoy it even more if you’ve read the first book in the series.