The Mask (Audiobook) by Taylor Stevens, Hilary Huber

The MaskThe Mask

by Taylor Stevens, Hillary Huber (Narrator)
Series: Vanessa Michael Munroe, #5

Unabridged Audiobook, 13 hrs., 54 min.
Random House Audio, 2015
Read: June 1 – 6, 2017


I spent a lot of time being annoyed with Michael in this novel — more time being annoyed with Miles, however. Well, that’s not true — events keep Miles off of the board for most of the book, so let me say that I spent more time annoyed with him while he active. I get that communication is hard for them, and I guess it was good to see that Miles was human, too — even his ability to understand Michael’s needs and desires has limits.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So Michael’s got her head on right after The Catch and goes to join Miles in Japan. He’s there in a strange corporate security consulting gig that he really won’t clue her in on. They spend a few months together, him working days and her trying not to get bored and learning Japanese. The latter of those two works a whole lot better than the former. She needs something to do — and not in the “I’ve gotta kill someone or take drugs” kind of way she did back in The Vessel. She just needs something to occupy her time while he’s putting in 15 hour days. Which isn’t dong their relationship any good. Before she can have it out with him, he gets arrested for murdering someone at the tech company he’s working for. If she had tried to talk, if he’d explained himself a little better — if they had communicated at all . . . so much of this novel wouldn’t have happened. Too many books/movies/TV shows rely on this poor interpersonal communication to force plots forward, it really gets on my nerves.

First, we get a little lesson in Japanese jurisprudence, which by itself was enough to convince me that I don’t want to end up arrested in Japan (not that I really want to be arrested anywhere). Then Michael goes to work to clear his name, no one else is going to. The hoops she has to jump through make her previous adventures seem easy — sure, she was in more peril in most of the previous books, but it seemed easier for her to get around and get the information she wanted. Cultural and corporate protocols are tougher to beat by bribery, sensuality and violence than other things, I guess. Throw in some underworld figures and you’ve got yourself a thriller worthy of Monroe. I really enjoyed this story once Miles got arrested and things got moving — Stevens is getting better at plot intricacies.

There’s a great corporate espionage plot throughout with an operative that could probably sustain her own novel if Stevens ever got around to it. I’m not sure I can say more than that without messing something up. But as despicable as I find (some of) her methods, they made for good reading.

About the time that I’d given up on Michael doing more than outwitting her opponents, she got sucked into a very violent confrontation. I didn’t spend a second thinking that she was in trouble, but man, she had to work hard to eliminate these guys. There’s that scene in The Vessel where Stevens cuts away from the action, and we don’t get to see Michael kill her captives, we just know she’s about to do something and then Miles comes along later and finds the aftermath. This fight scene was probably pretty similar to that — but there’s no cut. We get the whole thing.

I should take a moment to talk about Hilary Huber, but I can’t say anything about her narration than I’ve said before. Now that I’m caught up with these, I’m going to have to track down some other books that she’s narrated.

I never expected a happily ever after scenario between Michael and Miles — but I expected something better than this (not that this is in any way, shape or form the end of their relationship), and that took some of the shine off this book for me. Otherwise, this was very entertaining, gripping, and so on — a Michael Monroe thriller that tops its predecessors, and deepens our understanding of Michael. Not much more to ask.

—–

3.5 Stars

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