The Rook - Daniel O'Malley

She stood shivering in the rain, watching the words on the letter dissolve under the downpour. Her hair was dripping, her lips tasted salty, and everything ached. Under the dim light of a nearby lamppost, she had scrabbled through the pockets of her jacket, looking for some sort of clue to who she was, where she was, what was going on. She had found two letters in the inside pocket. The first envelope had been addressed simply To You. The second envelope just had the number 2 written on it.

This was fun. The Rook is a paranormal spy thriller and was not at all what I would have picked up had it not been for Darth Pedant leading me to this book!

If I can describe the book very briefly, I’d say it is Jason Bourne meeting Thursday Next…but without the literary references. Still, some of the plot of The Rook also takes place in the town of Reading.

Anyway, it’s a pacy story that made me chuckle, even if some of the humor was decidedly juvenile. Sometimes I need an easy read that does not make me think too hard. This was perfect for this.

The only aspects that niggled on me were:

1. The author didn’t know when to stop. Hence, parts of the story really drag. I’m sure there are around 150 pages that were not adding anything to the story.

2. It may have been because of the juvenile humor, but the main character did not strike me as fully fleshed out. For me she lacked some introspection that I would have expected from a character with her history.

However, there were some glorious scenes in this book, my favourite of which was this one, where our MC, Myfanwy, has had a bad encounter and is rejected from her hotel. This cracked me up because it could easily have been a dig at the opening scene of Die Another Day (the Bond film) where Bond walks into a hotel lobby in soaking wet pajamas:

“Clear off,” said one of the men forcefully. “Now.” Shooting the doormen a filthy look, Myfanwy walked down the footpath and got a perverse pleasure out of watching a couple of pedestrians jump out of her way.

   Okay, my mobile phone is coated in slime and no longer works. I can’t let Bronwyn see me like this, even if I could get back into the club, which I sincerely doubt. The slime was beginning to itch, and it was viscous enough that she couldn’t simply scrape it off. What the hell is this stuff? Then she had an idea, and abruptly turned a corner.

   Thank you, God, she thought. In a breach of security that would have had Clovis tearing out his hair, the rear entrance to the hotel had one person behind a desk, and that person was dozing. Apparently, it was the entrance for conventions and functions, and there were few of those taking place at three in the morning. The doors slid open and she stepped inside. In his sleep, the receptionist wrinkled his nose at Myfanwy’s appalling odor. She waved her hand at him and he settled into a deeper sleep. Taking a breath, she walked quietly past the desk.

   No outraged shouts stopped her. No irritating calls of “I say, excuse me!” The fact that she left a trail of evil on the floor as she padded down the hallway to the swimming pool prompted no threats to call the police. Myfanwy walked through the courtyard and looked around warily. The pool was steaming in the cold night air, and an electric light glowed under the water. Fortunately, there was no one in the courtyard, and the windows overlooking it were all curtained or dark. She laid her slime-covered handbag on a deck chair and gloomily regarded her filthy clothes. For a moment, she contemplated stripping right down, but then eyed the many balconies that looked down on the pool area. Probably not the best idea, she decided. Plus, if angry hotel staff appear, I don’t want to have to make a break for it while naked. Sighing, she walked down the steps into the water. She ducked her head under and felt a delightful warmth glide over her skin.

   Myfanwy kept her eyes clenched shut and scrubbed frantically at her body. Globules of muck sloughed off into the water, and an oily haze spread out from her. She raked her fingers through her hair and felt the sludge slide away. She kicked away from the mess and swam back toward the steps.

  Well, now I’m soaking wet, she thought grimly, but it’s a definite improvement. Fate had smiled upon her in the form of a towel left on a deck chair, and she took her shirt off to wring it out. There were some ominous-looking brown-black stains on her clothes, but her skin and hair were no longer caked with crud. She briskly toweled off her hair and arms and briefly considered taking off her jeans before noticing a man looking down at her from a balcony.

“Oh… hi,” she said, a little self-conscious about wearing just a bra.

“Evening,” he said. “Must have been a hell of a party.”

She glanced back at the pool and saw that it looked as if someone had dumped toxic waste in the deep end.

“Yes, indeed,” she said, suddenly ecstatic. She’d come safely through that manifestation in Bath and escaped relatively unharmed from the battle after she accused Gestalt of treachery. Hell, she’d even endured the interview with that Grafter thing. And now she was pleased with herself for sneaking into a snooty hotel and befouling their swimming pool.

“It was quite an event.”

“I don’t suppose you’d fancy a drink?” the man asked with a smile. “I could bring something down.”

“It’s a delightful offer,” said Myfanwy, smiling back. “But I have to go find the rest of my party. That said, I don’t suppose you could lend me a shirt?”

She gestured at the large stains on her top.

“A shirt?” he asked. “Certainly.”

He disappeared into his room and came back onto the balcony carrying a folded blue business shirt.

“It may be a little big on you,” he cautioned as he dropped it down to her.

“It’s infinitely better than the alternative.”

She put the shirt on, noting with amusement that it reached down to just above her knees. “Well, I must away. Thanks for the shirt.”

“I’d tell you to party responsibly, but I think it’s a little late,” said the man wryly.

“Don’t worry, I’m fine,” she said. “Have a good night.”

“You too,” he said, watching as she walked out the way she had come.


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