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Vanessa Monroe must save her former crew mates kidnapped by Somali pirates

The Catch by Taylor Stevens


In Taylor Stevens latest Vanessa Munroe thriller, "The Catch", she takes us deep into the treacherous armpit and waters around Africa to save the members of a security team kidnapped by pirates. Munroe, the unconventional androgynous heroine of Stevens' dark thrillers, who in the last book tried to save an innocent from the international sex trade in the searing "Doll", is now working in Djibouti, a tiny country sandwiched between Somalia and Ethiopia, for a specialized security outfit as a document procurer. Munroe, who can shed her gender and appear as both a male or a female, looked the male role when she took the job. She now finds herself on the outs with the Leo, the boss, because Munroe is hanging out too much with Amber, his wife and partner. Leo wants Munroe dead or gone, but foolishly discounts her because he is unaware of her other, harder edged skills.

In Leo's latest venture, he has been hired out as armed security guards on the freighter Favorita, which is traversing the Sea of Aden. Leo's team is there to prevent Somali pirates from hijacking the vessel and stealing its cargo. Munroe, however, finds that ship is gunrunning -hauling an illegal cache of weapons - making it a much more prized catch. Nary a night passes before the gunrunning ship is ambushed and attacked on the high seas. Munroe is the only one of Leo's crew able to escape the gunfight in a captured pirate boat, but she too takes a prize, the injured captain of the Favorita, who the pirates wanted unhurt. Munroe thinks the captain could be worth something to someone.

In the ensuing pages, Munroe must somehow survive the harrowing trip back to safety in the captured pirate craft. But navigating the Sea of Aden in a stolen pirate boat will be the least of Munroe's challenges if she wants to save Leo and her old crew mates from their fate. She will have to find a way to get Amber to trust her real expertise as a fixer, mercenary and skilled operator. She will have work the system, plan an approach of trading the Favorita and the captain. Who wants the ship, who wants the captain? Stevens will introduce us to the steamy side of Mombasa, Kenya, how ships are insured on the high seas, the hawala system that is used as an anonymous banking system in Muslim countries, Russian operators who want to obtain the captain, the financing and logistics of piracy and the omnipresent graft and corruption. Munroe will have to don and discard different genders, moving among the elites, the foreign influencers and operators in order to save Leo and his crew.

Reading a Taylor Stevens novel is a voyage into a new world. The setting is part of the allure of these tightly woven books. This is an intricately plotted thriller, with a decisive, if unusual thriller heroine, who has guts, skills and the intelligence to manipulate, cajole, and ultimately conceive of a way to obtain the goal of freeing the crew. It's another hard journey into a world far from the typical thriller landscape, but a world that Stevens knows and understands.