“The Mask” by Taylor Stevens is the fifth novel in the Vanessa Michael Munroe series. The worst part about this book is the fact that the next book in the series hasn’t been written yet. Every time I get a taste of Vanessa Michael Munroe I am completely sucked into her world. “The Mask” was no different.
At the beginning of the book Munroe arrives in Japan. Trying to recover after the ordeals that she went through in “The Catch”, Munroe is playing house with Bradford while he is working as a security consultant. Just when Munroe begins to feel at peace, Bradford is arrested for murder. Munroe is infuriated. She knows that there were things that Bradford was keeping from her and his dishonesty feels like a betrayal. But Bradford’s arrest is not something she can walk away from. In order to save Bradford, she needs to shed the girlfriend façade and once again, become the detached spy to dig into the work he was doing. Although it is a personal interest for her, she needs to be all business to save him.
Part of what makes these novels so interesting is how Munroe and Bradford are so muddled in what is right and wrong. “Given the life that Bradford had led, he wasn’t an innocent man. / War made murderers out of honest men – proclaiming guiltless by law what the conscience would later bear in shame – but there was innocence and then there was innocence, and if Bradford had targeted a kill, then the body would have disappeared and the evidence scattered and never found.” (The Mask, pg 53/54). There is no question in her mind that Bradford did not commit the murder he was arrested for, but she also acknowledges that he is not someone completely innocent. This is something that I really like about these books. Munroe knows that she is not your typical hero. She does a lot of bad things, and worse than that, she enjoys it most of the time. She is truly flawed, but at her heart she wants to do the right thing. Despite all that she has been through, she wants to help.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, but not to everyone. Established Munroe fans would definitely enjoy reading “The Mask” as I certainly did. But Munroe is a unique character that is constantly pushed up against violence and has to retaliate, often losing herself and pushing a little too far. Killing isn’t just an instinct to Munroe when she is cornered, but something she craves. This reluctant bloodlust is part of why Munroe would not appeal to everyone. She is a dark and complex character, and she isn’t for everyone. Personally, I think Munroe is amazing and I cannot wait to read the next book.