The Rook by Daniel O’ Malley

When Myfanwy Thomas regains consciousness she is standing in the rain surrounded by dead people wearing latex gloves.  Armed with only a mysterious letter that she finds in her coat pocket, and absolutely no memory, Myfanwy has to assimilate into a life previously inhabited by a former incarnation of herself. The letter leads her to make a choice- and to more letters- that explain a former life. Myfanyway finds that though the former Myfanway Thomas had a more timid personality, her incredible organizational skills earned her a place as a Rook (a chief administrator) in a little known government agency called “The Chequy” – dedicated to protecting the UK from supernaturally endowed humans and alien species. Now all Myfanyway has to do is to fit in and try not to get herself killed before finding out who in the tight knit organization wants her dead.

I wasn’t plannning to read The Rook when I picked it up. My curiousity was piqued when it showed up unexpectedly, and once I had read a few pages I wasn’t able to put it down. This novel approach to what is basically a spy/mystery novel is enlivened by the dual narratives of the Myfanwy Thomas’- one of whom guides her future self via an extremely organized and detailed set of letters, and the other reading and trying to discover who among her colleagues wants to destroy her and the organization. O’Malley successfully mixes and matches elements of humor, mystery and suspense.  Thomas’s letters are absorbing, and realistically convey a world populated by fascinating people with physical and/or manipulative powers. In addition to the central mystery, which is well-plotted and hard to figure out, there are inter-agency investigations and sub-plots dealing with Myfanwy’s family, the government’s co-opting of children in the interests of national security, and the evolution of the new Myfanwy in comparison to her predecessor.

The Rook is well-written mystery with unique plot twists that on the whole make sense and add to the suspense of the story.  Set in London, it also has very English sensibilities, and provides some insight (though fictional) on how goverment operations differ on the other side of the pond. Myfanwy is a kick-ass heroine whose adventures and smarts are a pleasure to follow. Recommended.

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