The Mask was my first Taylor Stevens novel and a whole lot of fun. I'm not a huge thriller fan, mainly because character usually takes a backseat to plot, and the characters we do receive are often two dimensional. I'm happy to report that Vanessa Michael Munroe is a complicated protagonist with a horrible past who doesn't mind getting her hands dirty.
When I first began reading this fifth book in Stevens's Munroe series, I became a little worried. I felt as if I'd been thrown in with characters I was supposed to know. I had researched the series before choosing the book and everything I found said each novel could be read as a standalone. It didn't feel that way. Not at first. Over the course of the novel, I came to know Munroe, but Bradford was and still is a mystery to me. This isn't a bad thing in my eyes, though, as it gives me good reason to pick up the series from book one. So, in my opinion, does The Mask work as a standalone? Yes and no. Yes, the story is complete. No, I didn't understand why Munroe cared so much for Bradford. It was more along the lines of "Here's this guy she cares about, now watch her race to save him."
The plot is well structured with plenty of twisty bits. Sato was a terrific villain. I enjoyed every one of her chapters and wish there had been more from that character.
The last thirty pages is a bloody blast. Munroe pulls out all her skills and handles business with an almost supernatural flair. Reminded me quite a lot of Kadrey's Sandman Slim, if Stark were mortal. I was impressed by some of the small details the author used, like having Munroe press against her closed eyelids to make her eyes adjust to the dark quicker. And there's this one scene where she plans ahead using a dead man's forthcoming rigor mortis... you know what, just read the book.
In summation: The Mask is a perfect blend of tech and action and brutality. I'm sold on this series. Sign me up for books one through four.
Final Judgment: Stabby-stabby fans will love this.
I received this book from http://www.bloggingforbooks.org in return for this honest review.