The Rook: A Novel: A Novel by Daniel O’Malley (New York: Little Brown and Company, 2012. 482pp.)
Though I sometimes hate to admit it, one of my favorite movies has been, and most likely always will be, Ghostbusters!. I know it’s cheesy; I know the acting isn’t super amazing, but Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd made that movie both hilarious and exciting. So, for me, reading a book that contained equal parts Ghostbusters, James Bond, and Memento really enthralled me. The Rook is a story about a secret service agent who works for special agency that focuses solely on the supernatural (Her Majesty’s Supernatural Secret Service). She loses her memory and The Rook describes the lengths by which she tries to get it back.
The novel opens up with a letter inscribed to the protagonist, Myfanwy (just go with it, pronounced like Tiffany with an “m”), from her past self, addressing her memory loss. She reads the letter with some surprise, then realizes she’s in a park in the rain with no idea who she really is, or how she got there, with dead bodies nearby.
“Willows drooped their long tendrils down around the clearing, and she was standing on what used to be a lawn but was rapidly becoming a mud hole. She came to a decision, pulled her feet out of the mire, and stepped carefully over the ring of bodies that were scattered around her. They were all motionless, and all of them were wearing latex gloves” (3).
Myfawny writes letters to herself throughout the entirety of the novel, a wonderful literary device that the author uses to help the reader follow the life of an amnesiac much like Memento. Myfawny has the information that she needs at hand via a purple binder given to her from her pre-memory-loss self. She just has to read the letters fast enough.
|Photo by Mukumbura|
The information in these letters describes a secret service organization that deals specifically with the supernatural called the Checquy. Myfanwy is a high ranking official—a Rook—and she is due at work tomorrow. In a plot sequence similar to a James Bond film, Myfanwy figures that someone in the Checquy is the person who wiped her memory, and her previous self didn’t discover that person, even though she was warned several times by various psychics that her memory would be wiped. Describing a prophecy from a random source, O’Malley writes
“‘Myfanwy Thomas, bad things are headed your way. As bad as ever I have seen in my life. You will lose everything. You will end in the rain, and beyond that I cannot see. So enjoy yourself while you can’” (335).
Investigation of the Checquy
So, Myfanwy investigates the highest level of the Checquy, known as the court, to see if any of these high ranking officials contributed to the memory wipe, and on a basic level, why anyone would try to erase her memory in the first place. This court consists of:
“Rooks (resonsible for domestic operations; based at the Rookery)…Chevaliers (responsible for foreign operations; based at the Annexe)…Bishops (supervisors of the Checquy, aides to the heads; based at Apex House)…[and] Lord and Lady (heads of the Checquy, based at Apex House)” (123).
This book contains something for everyone. If you love James Bond novels, you’ve got action. If you like supernatural powers, and weird urban, you’ll find it here too. If you like twisted mental themes, you’ve got that as well. O’Malley has crafted an engaging novel which succeeds in enrapturing its readers in a mystery / science-fiction / action thriller. The Rook is a creative novel, and I sincerely think O’Malley will be an author to watch in the future. He may even have a new Harry Potter franchise on his hands, as he has plans to write more books on the Checquy.
Verdict: 4.5 out of 5