From certain angles, Livia Lone (Thomas & Mercer, $24.95), by Barry Eisler, might seem just as cartoonish as The Vanishing Year. It's about a Seattle cop named Livia, who knows jujitsu, zips around on a motorcycle and opens the book by murdering a rapist partially for her own sexual enjoyment. But Eisler has rooted her story in a scrupulously researched and harrowing account of child sex trafficking, and this gives Livia's unlikely later adventures credibility and resonance. The resulting hybrid makes for an absolutely first-rate thriller.
Livia Lone is divided into chapters labeled "Then" and "Now." Those in the past are about Livia and her sister, Nason, whose parents sell them to a gang of Thai traffickers. The sexual assaults begin almost immediately; Livia volunteers herself, to protect her little sister. These sections are hard to read, but never gratuitous, and, like the whole book, feel emotionally true at each beat. "She knew she would die if she stopped eating. The thought was immediately appealing."
She forces herself to carry on. Shipped to America, the sisters are separated, and the "Now" sections of Eisler's book revolve around Livia's attempts to track down Nason, as well as the men who initially abused them. These have more of the conventional contours of a thriller, verging at moments on the ridiculous, but even here the novel is careful to grant Livia the full complexity of her awful history, the murderousness, the helplessness, the sorrow and the self-loathing that underlie her adult strength.
Eisler is an earnest author, kind of nerdy. He likes detail. Almost every thriller has a lead who's a master of jujitsu, but this one, in some of its finest scenes, actually traces Livia's slow acquisition of the art, the appeal of the power and surprising friendships it brings her. This is a nice change from the norm, and it's emblematic of Eisler's humane and grounded approach to writing a tall tale. His language is clear, unpretentious, a little clunky, a little hammy. Caught up in Livia's journey, you barely notice it's there.
—New York Times Book Review
An explosive thriller that plunges into the sewer of human smuggling.
Billy Barnett picks up Livia Lone in a bar, figuring her for an easy, like-it-or-not lay. But she's set up this known predator and kills him. She is a Seattle sex-crimes cop who secretly murders scum the legal system hasn't sufficiently punished. 'She respected the system...and if the system didn't get them [victims] justice, she would get them justice another way.' After this brisk opening, we plunge into Livia's back story. In Thailand her parents sell 13-year-old Labee and her 11-year-old sister, Nason, who become separated on arriving in the U.S. in a shipping container. Labee is adopted and renamed Livia, becoming the sex slave of prominent businessman Fred Lone. At school she befriends Sean, who stutters and capably defends himself against bullies. Their friendship leads to her learning jujitsu and judo, skills that come to help define her, end her abuse, and end many men's lives. One scene, not unique, goes from "he was between her naked legs" to "His eyes rolled up, his tongue flopped loose, and his body went limp on top of her." And she's plenty smart enough to keep her name out of any investigations and not leave any traceable patterns. Livia determines that 'she was never going to be ruled by fear again.' As an adult she becomes a cop in a Seattle PD sex crimes unit so she can hunt monsters who sexually abuse children 'and put them in prison forever. Or else put them in the ground.' Over the years she never stops trying to find out what happened to Nason, an insatiable desire that's a driving force in the plot. Eisler (The God's Eye View, 2016, etc.) writes sex scenes that are intense and disturbing, and the villains deserve all the pain Livia Lone can inflict.
Filled with raw power, this may be the darkest thriller of the year.
—Kirkus, Starred Review
Livia Lone, who works for the sex crimes division of the Seattle PD, uses herself as bait to entice, entrap, and then punish the male vermin who sexually assault young women, as an unfortunate gang biker learns in the first chapter of this exciting thriller from bestseller Eisler (The God's Eye View). Flashbacks reveal Livia's motive for becoming a lethal avenger. In Thailand, her birthplace, her parents sell 13-year-old Livia and her 11-year-old sister, Nason, to sex traffickers. The girls are separated in their forced voyage to the States, where Livia is rescued and later adopted by Frederick Lone, a prominent businessman whose brother is a U.S. senator, and his wife. Livia soon develops highly advanced martial arts skills that come in handy when her adoptive father tries to rape her. Once free of him, Livia dedicates herself to locating Nason. Although the final confrontation between Livia and Senator Lone and his henchman, Skull Face, is way over the top, on the whole Eisler keeps a firm hand on the throttle of what could be the first of a rewarding series.
Eisler's latest introduces Seattle cop Livia Lone, who has overcome a horrible past but has not been able to get beyond the need for vengeance. Livia's Thai parents sold both Livia and her sister, Nason, to ruthless men who took them to America and forced them into a world of sex and abuse. Livia was separated from Nason but has never stopped looking for her. As a cop, she now has the resources she needs to relaunch her search with renewed energy. From the opening page, Eisler pulls no punches in his description of the depravity of the sex trade and the human-trafficking underground. Livia is a complex and sympathetic character, though her seeming coldness serves to distance her a bit from the reader. Readers of hard-boiled fiction, heavily tinted toward noir, may see in Livia something of Carol O'Connell's Kathy Mallory, also a cop with an abuse-filled past and an appetite for revenge. Keep cozy readers far, far away from this one, but those who like the dark side will feel right at home.
Livia Lone is a disturbing thriller about the shadowy and all too real world of human trafficking and modern slavery. Its eponymous protagonist uses her hard-earned street smarts and jujitsu skills to track down rapists and crime lords. But the depth of investigative research Barry Eisler did to inform the novel makes it as thought-provoking as it is un-put-downable. You won't be able to tear yourself away as the story accelerates into a Tarantino-worthy climax and when you're left gasping in the wake of its gut-wrenching vigilante justice, you'll belatedly realize you learned a lot about a social travesty that gets far too little attention. Praised by the New York Times Book Review and highlighted on numerous "Best of 2016" lists, Livia Lone is a harrowing tale with a conscience.
—Chicago Review of Books
Barry Eisler, known best for his wonderful John Rain thriller series, is back with Livia Lone (Thomas & Mercer, $24.95, 391 pages), an inspired effort in which the shades of dark are perfectly mixed with tones of light. That's because the title character, a Seattle-based sex-crimes investigator, was a victim of human trafficking herself.
And the great thing here is that the book actually lives up to its premise, in large part because Livia is such a captivating and fascinating lead. Eisler's superb tale pits her against the mother of all human-trafficking organizations, with connections to higher-ups in our own government, and with nothing less than the fate of Livia's younger sister, who vanished as a child, at stake.
Such an emotive and powerful premise would be precarious at best in lesser hands, but in Eisler's seasoned grasp, it's a literary home run in every respect.
Andrew Vachss' at times terrific Burke novels are as good as it gets when it comes to child exploitation. But Livia's personal stake in the outcome takes Livia Lone to a whole new level seldom reached by thrillers.
Eisler offers up an astonishingly raw tale that is dark and disturbing, but one that you will want to finish. Both the compelling narrative and the fascinating—yet seriously flawed—heroine are indications that Eisler is at the top of his game. Few may foresee the surprising plot twist that occurs toward the end of the book, adding another level of depravity to the already troubling topics of child sex trafficking, abuse, violence and abnormal sexual triggers.
As a child in Thailand, Livia and her younger sister are sold to a human trafficker. On the ship enroute to the US, Livia tries to protect her sister—an attempt which backfires and spirals into a tragic chain of events. Livia is rescued and taken in by a man who is a pillar of the community, but harbors some dark secrets. The only thing that keeps Livia going is the mission of finding her sister and exacting revenge. She waits over 10 years—becoming a martial arts expert and a cop—before she gets the clues needed to track her sister.
—RT Book Reviews
Barry Eisler is back, and then some. Livia Lone, its somewhat uninspiring title notwithstanding, may be the best and strongest work of his storied career. It's a book that is nearly impossible to put down, given that it features the protagonist of the year and some sinus-clearing descriptive prose that will be described as "over-the-top" in some quarters and "rough but necessary" in others. We'll discuss that at further length shortly.
First, let's talk about Livia Lone. The novel is divided roughly equally between "Then" and "Now," with the shifts in time occurring at very irregular intervals. Livia Lone is very much in the "Now." When we meet her, she is a Seattle PD sex-crimes detective; when she is off duty, she is very, very much on the job. Livia treads the line between law enforcement and vigilante, and as we learn what transpired in the "Then," it becomes hard to fault her.
"Then" begins in rural Thailand. Livia, who was a 13-year-old named Lahee, and her 11-year-old sister Nason lived in abject poverty with her parents and older brother. Lahee had taken it upon herself to raise her younger sister, going hungry herself so that Nason could get something to eat. As bad as their life was, it became far, far worse when their parents sold them to strangers who ripped them abruptly from their childhood home. The girls were placed in shipping containers with some other unfortunates, and the nightmare began in earnest when they were ultimately separated. Lahee was eventually discovered in Portland, Oregon, and was adopted into the Lone family. While her material needs were met, her waking and sleeping hours were the stuff of nightmares. Her only goal, though, was to find her younger sister.
As "Then" slowly unfolds in the narrative, revealing how the frightened 13-year-old became the extremely driven young woman of the title, Livia in the "Now" begins to engineer a sting operation ostensibly aimed at bringing down a drug dealer. Her hidden agenda is to get her one last best chance of hunting down the person who separated her from Nason and, hopefully, to determine what happened to her. It is a terrible path, fraught with danger, and will lead Livia to a place where she had hoped never to return and from which she may not come back.
Livia Lone moves like a freight train, and it's one that you shouldn't attempt to board without fair warning. There is a discussion among authors and readers about how much is "too much" where graphic descriptions are concerned, and I would submit to you that Eisler treads the line here. The book deals with human trafficking, and he does not flinch when describing what is done to children, to the point where one might question whether or not he crosses the line. I think he does, but it's a line that in this case has to be crossed.
We are familiar with the terms "human trafficking" and "sex trafficking." To paraphrase Werner Heisenberg, the use of children in such matters is not just worse than we imagine; it is worse than we can imagine. Eisler rubs the reader's nose in it, and if that is what it takes to raise outrage over this situation to a proper level, then more power to him. Just don't say you weren't warned. Eisler does not hint around the subject, nor does he flinch from the violence that his avenging angel visits upon those who cross her path.
Jump on what appears to be the start of a terrific new series. Just be mindful of the subject matter.
Livia Lone has a day job: She works in the sex-crimes division of the Seattle police department, but she does some extracurricular work, too. That extracurricular work is letting men pick her up in bars, and then killing them. Livia was sold into sex work when she was just a child, and has no tolerance for the kind of man who mistreated her back then and never suffered the consequences. Readers may be reminded of Stieg Larsson's beloved Lisbeth Salander when they meet Livia Lone, and will be totally riveted by the story of this woman on a mission to right the wrongs in her past. Kirkus raves, "Filled with raw power, this may be the darkest thriller of the year."