a review by Rebecca Muir
The Rook is the debut novel for Daniel O’Malley. At 482 pages, it is no small accomplishment. The Rook tells the story of a woman who wakes up in the rain in a park, surrounded by dead men wearing latex gloves. She has no idea who she is or how she got there. In her coat pocket is a letter, which begins “Dear You, The body you are wearing used to be mine”. The woman must discover who she is (31 year old Myfanwy Thomas) and why someone is trying to attack her. Armed with a stack of letters from her former self and a purple binder folder, she turns up at her work place to discover that she is an important person in a secret government-sanctioned organisation dealing with supernatural phenomena – protecting civilians while keeping them in the dark. Someone in the organisation is responsible for her memory loss, and Myfanwy has to lead the organisation through national and international threats, while coming to terms with her own supernatural and rather deadly ability and hiding her amnesia from her colleagues so that she can uncover the traitor who threatens them all.
The Rook is a cleverly written book. We get to see the organisation and the conspiracy through a double lens as the story is told through Myfanwy’s eyes but also through the letters from her former self. The new Myfanwy is not the meek, psychologically scarred person she used to be, which leads to some humorous encounters as well as some “you go girl” moments. The characters are quirky and the plot is interesting. Daniel O’Malley does seem rather fond of the yuck factor, with quite a lot of the book set among slime, gore, fungus and giant cubes of man-eating flesh, but it was balanced with good story telling and humour.
This book is about bravery and doing the right thing rather than the easy thing – Myfanwy is thrust into a dangerous life where her decisions affect many people, and she must decide what type of person she is going to be. It is about a journey of self-discovery as well as a journey to uncover the truth. It is a book about the importance of family, but also about the importance of good administration!
I enjoyed this book, and recommend it to people who like stories about secret government agencies, supernatural thrillers or just a good mystery book with a strong protagonist.