The Doll by Taylor Stevens (Crown, June 4th, 213)-To me, one of the most terrifying things happening in the world today is human trafficking, and this is the world that Vanessa Michael Monroe is plunged into in the third installment of Taylor Stevens’s series featuring the tough, almost preternaturally talented heroine. For nine months, Vanessa has enjoyed relative peace working for Capstone, a private security firm based in Dallas, TX, and her tentative romance with her coworker Miles Bradford seems to be going well. This delicate peace is shattered, however, when she’s shot with a tranquilizer gun right outside of Capstone and whisked away in a stolen ambulance. Bradford witnesses the whole thing, but can’t get to her in time, and when they discover a body double with Vanessa’s ID in a local hospital, Bradford immediately knows something is very, very wrong, and sets his team on getting her back, by any means possible.
By now, Vanessa is in Croatia and has learned that she’s a captive of a man that calls himself the Doll Maker. That name is enough to give anyone a case of the creeps, and the man does indeed live up his cringe inducing moniker. He’s not only obsessed with toy dolls, but he’s also the mastermind of a vast criminal enterprise that provides human dolls (complete with frilly dresses, tights, Mary Janes and Shirley Temple hair) to discerning, and rich, clients, and he has a very special job in mind for Vanessa. She must transport Neeva Eckridge, a young actress that’s been missing for weeks, to a very particular client, and if she doesn’t, the Doll Maker will systematically kill everyone Vanessa holds dear. He’s not just out for money, he’s out for revenge.
As Vanessa sets out on her journey with Neeva, she’s constantly on the lookout for chances to outmaneuver her foes, but they’re shadowing her every move and her disgust with herself in regards to what she is doing is at war with her need to protect the ones she loves, at any cost. Neeva is a spitfire and is a wondrous blend of spirit and resilience, which is not lost on Vanessa, and the stakes couldn’t be higher for them both. The Doll begs the question: How far would you go to save someone you love? It’s the exploration of that very question that makes The Doll a standout in the genre and a taut, exciting, and sometimes heartwrenching read.