Daniel O’Malley


The Rook (2012), Stiletto (2016)

The Rook (2012)

I spent what felt like an entire day starting a book, then putting it aside because THAT was not what I was in the mood for. Or what I thought I might want to read I don’t have as an ebook. Whine whine whine.

So I opened up Calibre and read the descriptions of several books, sent them to my kindle and then randomly opened this one.

Then I didn’t look up again until it was time to go to bed.

So how to describe this book? How about with the first couple paragraphs.

Dear You,

The body you are wearing used to be mine. The scar on the inner left thigh is there because I fell out of a tree and impaled my leg at the age of nine. The filling in the far left tooth on the top is a result of my avoiding the dentist for four years. But you probably care little about this body’s past. After all, I’m writing this letter for you to read in the future. Perhaps you are wondering why anyone would do such a thing. The answer is both simple and complicated. The simple answer is because I knew it would be necessary.

The complicated answer could take a little more time.

Do you know the name of the body you are in? It’s Myfanwy. Myfanwy Alice Thomas. I would say that it’s my name, but you’ve got the body now, so I suppose you’ll be using it.

Myfanwy Thomas comes to herself surrounded by a group of bodies, all wearing gloves. But she doesn’t know who she is, or much of anything else. But she finds letters she wrote, because apparently her past self knew this was coming.

I really enjoyed The Rook. It’s a spy thriller if the spy was a forensic accountant.

Tracking the missing money was actually kind of fun, especially compared to all those records of corporate credit card transactions that I had to wade through. That shit was just tedious. There’s a reason that there’s no TV show called CSI: Forensic Accounting.

In a world where people with special abilities exist.

(T)he most effective psychics are the ones who never realize they’re psychic and instead manage to live excellent lives by consistently making the right decisions. Their powers effectively guide them through the shoals of life without their knowing.

There is a lot of exposition in this story, because the past Myfanwy left lots and lots of letters (and binders) for her future self, in the hopes that the future self would be able to find out who stole her memory and protect herself.

Some readers apparently disliked it, but I quite enjoyed it. And as Myfanwy slowly learned about her past and pretended to be herself until she became herself, it was often amusing.

Take the history of how the secret agency ended up becoming a part of the United States.

Over a cup of untaxed tea, Martha and Shadrach hammered out the details of the Croatoan’s absorption into the government. The negotiations were terrifying in their complexity, and the supernatural community still disputes who was the shrewder negotiator. Regardless, when George Washington arrived home, he found himself in possession of a covert supernatural agency.

And some other bits about recovering from amnesia.

She’d found a battery-powered item in the drawer of the bedside table but was somewhat wary of using it. Admittedly, it is mine. And it’s only ever been used on my body. But not by me. This is an aspect of amnesia that people don’t normally talk about.

If you don’t like epistolary stories, then this is REALLY not for you. But I quite loved it, and look forward to when the next book goes on sale or someone gives it to my for my birthday. :)

Published by Little, Brown and Company
Rating: 9/10

Re-Read: July 2019
Rating: 9.5/10

Re-Read: December 2020
Rating: 10/10

Audible Version (2012) narrated by Susan Duerden

Myfanwy Thomas awakens in a park, surrounded by bodies, with no idea who she is.

I really do like this story a lot. It’s so dryly funny.

The meeting with the people from accounting proved spectacularly uninteresting as Myfanwy learned how cheaply one could surreptitiously remove plague-infected bodies and dissect them.

What Thurow had done was in the best traditions of the British Empire: she had simultaneously discovered a species and gone to war with it.

I’m good in a crisis, but it’s not because I’m not afraid. I’m always afraid. I’m so stressed I want to throw up. But I am good in a crisis because I am very, very good at making preparations. I try to cover every angle, to plan for every eventuality.

“That’s experience talking,” said Shantay. “In these situations, the glass is always half empty.”


“Always,” confirmed the Bishop. “Right until it fills up with some sort of spectral blood that grows into a demonic entity.”

And the narration is wonderful. I very much enjoyed the voices and how, despite all the dialog, it was relatively easy to keep people separate.

This is a very fun book, and I highly recommend it.

Publisher: Hachette Audio
Rating: 9/10

Re-Listen: February 2019
Rating: 9.5/10

Re-Listen: May 2021
Rating: 10/10

Stiletto (2016)

I really enjoyed The Rook, so I was thrilled when the sequel, Stiletto, went on sale.

At first, I was a tiny bit disappointed that Rook Myfanwy Thomas wasn’t the main character, but she made a later appearance, and I came to really like the new characters introduced: Felicity and Odette.

It hadn’t always been easy, but so far, she had not caused any catastrophes, despite the fact that she was effectively masquerading as herself— a role for which she was not terribly qualified.

And of course the same humor from the first book.

“But where did you get my urine?” she asked.

“The Checquy has samples of everyone’s everything,” said Odgers cheerfully. “Remember, during your time at the Estate, they kept taking specimens of your every fluid and solid?”

“That was for scientific research!” exclaimed Felicity. “And it was years ago!”

“Would someone else’s fresh urine be better?”

“You’re getting a bodyguard?” Alessio asked Odette. “Why? Is this related to the fact that at the end of every day, you’re wearing a different outfit than the one you started in?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Odette. “I haven’t been doing that.”

“Yes, you have,” said Alessio.

“I know I was distracted on the way here, but I’m fairly certain this is not the car I arrived in.”

“That’s right, Rook Thomas.”

“So… were we robbed?”

“No, but the deaths at the site have already caught the attention of the press. They’re hanging around outside, so we’ll have to go in the back. I thought a stretch limousine might draw some attention.”

“I suppose that makes sense,” said Thomas grudgingly. “Good thinking.” She sighed and looked at the diminutive and disreputable vehicle. “Where did we even get this car? Whose is it?”

“Pawn Thistlethwaite’s. He said we could borrow it.”

“Pawn Thistlethwaite came in this?” asked the Rook. “That can’t be right, I know what his salary is. Make a note, Ingrid, we should have him screened for drugs.”

“It’s his son’s car,” said the EA. “I gather his is at the mechanic’s.”

THAT bit cracked me up.

What I found particularly fascinating about this story was how the Checquy and the Grafters each viewed the other as monsters–the Grafters because of the changes they made to themselves and the Checquy because they were born strange and mutated.

What I LOVED was that these are strong independent female characters who are the starts of the books. The male characters are all supporting cast and none of them are male romantic leads (although there are occasional hints of romance). This is a fabulous book and a great sequel–I highly recommend both.

Published by Little, Brown and Company
Rating: 9.5/10

Audible Edition (2016) narrated by Moira Quirk

Felicity Clements is a Pawn of the Checquy–a pawn who wants to become a Barghest.

Odette Leliefeld is the great(s)-granddaughter of Ernst, lord and master of the Wetenschappelijk Broederschap van Natuurkundigen. She and her little brother have come to England with the Broederschap delegation to make piece with the Checquy.

And then of course there is Myfanwy Thomas.

She sighed and looked at the diminutive and disreputable vehicle. “Where did we even get this car? Whose is it?”

“Pawn Thistlethwaite’s. He said we could borrow it.”

“Pawn Thistlethwaite came in this?” asked the Rook. “That can’t be right, I know what his salary is. Make a note, Ingrid, we should have him screened for drugs.”

“It’s his son’s car,” said the EA. “I gather his is at the mechanic’s.”

This is the sequel to The Rook, and I love it just as well as the first book.

Although it’s a bit disappointing to not get as much Myfanwy Thomas as one would like, I very much enjoy the complex relationship between Felicity and Odette. They have good reasons to distrust and dislike each other, so it’s lovely to watch time and courtesy changing their opinions.

I also very much like seeing the battle between the Checquy and the Broederschap from other side than we saw in The Rook. Especially since they find the Checquy just as inhuman as the Checquy found them. (We also see that the battle/war was not about Broederschap wishes but rather political machinations.)

I think one of the things I love best about these books are the vivid and strange descriptions.

Thirty minutes later, she was jolted out of her sleep by a torrent of noise. It sounded like someone was cramming a metric ton of live weasels into a phone box.

Now, as she walked angrily down the hallway, she was aware that her choice of footwear and the elaborate caution it required in order for her to stomp effectively meant that she looked somewhat like a dressage pony, or possibly a dressage praying mantis.

This is a different narrator from the first book, but I thought they both did well, so I wasn’t bothered by the change, even listening to the books one after the other.

Publisher: Hachette Audio
Rating: 9/10

Re-Listen: March 2019
Rating: 9.5/10

Re-Listen: June 2021
Rating: 9.5/10