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James Cameron may have told the New York Times back in May that he’s in the “Avatar business. Period,” but 20th Century Fox has announced he’ll direct an adaptation of the novel The Informationist for the studio after he completes the second and third Avatar films, now in pre-production.

Cameron will co-produce The Informationist with Jon Landau, his partner at Lightstorm Entertainment, which has acquired the rights to the book by Taylor Stevens published in October 2011, according to a Fox press release Tuesday. The pair expect to hire a writer soon to adapt the book.

Stevens’ thriller, in the vein of Stieg Larsson’s female-centric The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, revolves around information specialist Vanessa “Michael” Munroe, “whose work is in-demand by corporations, heads of state, private clients, and anyone else who can pay for her unique brand of expertise,” according to the release. Munroe is hired by a Texas oil billionaire to find his daughter, who disappeared in Africa four years earlier. Munroe returns to the area, where she grew up, and “betrayed, cut off from civilization, and left for dead, she must come face-to-face with the past that she’s tried for so long to forget.” A sequel to the novel, The Innocent, was published earlier this year.

“Taylor Stevens’ Vanessa Michael Munroe is an intriguing and compelling heroine with an agile mind and a thirst for adventure,” said Cameron in a statement. “Equally fascinating for me is her emotional life and her unexpected love story. I’m looking forwarding to bringing Vanessa and her world to the big screen.”

Landau added in a statement that the novel and film’s main character recalls recent action heroes, as well as being a good fit for Cameron, who has highlighted strong women such as Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in his 1986 sci-fi juggernaut Aliens. “This was an opportunity to continue our relationship with Fox and Jim Gianopulos beyond the Avatar films,” he said. “We were drawn to this book because of the terrific, compelling narrative and the character, who typifies the strong female protagonists that have inhabited Jim’s work – in this case Vanessa Munroe is essentially a mix of Lisbeth Salander and Jason Bourne.”

Stevens is herself the subject of mystery, having grown up in the cult Children of God, and raised in communes, separated from her family at age twelve before breaking away in her twenties. She now lives in Texas.

Who should take on the role of Vanessa Munroe in Cameron’s adaptation? With Rooney Mara filling the shoes of Larsson’s Lisbeth Salandar from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo on-screen, the field is wide open for another strong, yet emotionally conflicted, heroine.

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