In Stevens' third lean and mean thriller featuring Vanessa Michael Munroe, an "informationist" with a scary dark streak who specializes in recovering kidnapping victims, she is forced by an Eastern European sex trafficker to deliver an American teen to a European buyer.
If Michael doesn't comply with the demands of the Doll Maker, so called because he has the kidnapped girls made up to look like dolls, he will kill her closest friend and partner in special ops, Logan, whom he also has abducted. As her boss and lover, Dallas security consultant Miles Bradford, orchestrates efforts to save her, Michael improvises a scheme to escape the Doll Maker's control and free the girl. That involves escaping the trafficker's surveillance of her every move as she drives from Croatia to Italy and thwarting his adopted son, who is following her and can kill her sniper-style at any time. She also must prevent the tiny but cocky girl, Neeva, an actress who has fallen under her influence, from putting herself in harm's way. This book is strongly influenced by the existential bare-bones approach of Lee Child's Reacher books, and its brilliant but damaged heroine, the estranged daughter of missionaries, owes much to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. But Stevens stamps the novel with her own bleak, punishing, bullet-flying outlook. With the exception of a scene or two between Michael and Neeva, the tone is grim—no lighthearted relief here, especially from the stony Bradford. Out of that gloomy intensity comes edgy suspense.
In Stevens' powerfully contained follow-up to The Innocent (2011), there is no release for the tormented heroine, only license to live another day.