books

Daniel O’Malley

Books: Fantasy | Mystery

The Rook (2012), Stiletto (2016), Blitz (2022)

The Rook (2012)

The Rook

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

Audio Version (2012) narrated by Susan Duerden

Rating: 9/10

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

Audio Edition (2016) narrated by Moira Quirk

Rating: 9/10

Blitz (2022)

BlitzThis is the third book in The Checquy Files series. The story is split between London in (probably) 1940 and modern London (set perhaps a year after Stiletto, which was set maybe six months of the Rook, so ~2013) in (seemingly) unrelated stories. You of course know the story lines are going to tie together, but you have no idea how.

Additionally, if you have not read the previous two books, you can absolutely read this one without any confusion.

In 1940 we have Pamela (a Pawn), Usha and Bridget (apprentices) all of whom work with the Lady of the Court. We also have multiple appearances by Henry Wattleman. (If you’ve read the previous two books, seeing him here is fascinating.)

It is also a look at London during the Blitz, which was fascinating in and of itself.

Next to them was a stout door with heavy metal handles and some handwritten instructions pinned to its side:

IF THIS DOOR SHOULD BE BLOCKED BY DEBRIS ON THE OUTSIDE, THE OCCUPANTS SHOULD:

1. RELEASE THE LOCKING HANDLES

2. USE THESE CROWBARS TO LEVER 
OPEN THE DOOR BY INSERTING 
THE FLATTENED ENDS BETWEEN 
DOOR AND FRAME AT THE RIGHT- 
HAND SIDE AND THE THRESHOLD

Bridget looked down. Sure enough, a rack below the sign held two crowbars. The matter-of-fact tone of the instructions in case of disaster made the hair on the back of her neck stand up. All too easily, Bridget could imagine being buried alive down here.

The second story is about Lyn, a woman who suddenly and unexpectedly discovers she can control electricity, and is this introduced to the Checquy.

“What is this? You’re— what? You’re— you’re scrying my family? In a cup of coffee?”

“Legally, scrying is seeing the future,” said the woman. “I’m showing the present. Of a location within a 36.876-kilometer radius. Through an aperture of up to 41.34 inches.”

“Is it magic?”

The woman shrugged. “It’s just something I can do.”

Because Lyn comes into her powers as an adult, we watch her go through time at the Estate, and learn what the Checquy is. We also see how different things were prior to the creation of the Estate, as Bridget, Pamela, and Usha were all apprentices.

I really enjoyed reading about Lyn during her time at the Estate, because we see an entirely different part of the Checquy.

“Our physicists are terrifically excited by the implications, but then, they’re in a state of almost constant excitement here. We’ve had to schedule enforced naps for all the scientists on Kirrin Island to keep them from working until they keel over.”

To be clear, this means the first part of the book is somewhat slow, as Lyn learns about her powers, and about the Checqy.

Then it suddenly takes off, and is almost non stop for the rest of the book.

And through it all are the bits that are immediately recognizable as Daniel O’Malley writing about the Checquy,

And then there were no more shots, only the unmistakable sound of someone having run out of bullets.

She looked warily at Dr. Allard, who was busily using a protractor to ensure that the cake was sliced evenly.

“Help!” screamed Georgina. “Help!”

Lyn shot her a startled glance. After their torturous silence, the girl’s scream was shocking, but of course it made perfect sense.

Absolutely, let’s make this someone else’s problem!

One of the things I adore about these books is that things are mentioned in passing that may come to be important later in the book, or they may just be interesting / amusing anecdotes. You never know.

It is, as I said, a little slower at the start–at least the Lyn portion, as she goes through the estate, but it does shift into action adventure. I ended up reading this in chunks, because it is a long book (just under 700 pages) and I was never sure when things were going to take off, so when I reached a lull and stop, and then pick it back up when I had another longish stretch of time.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and am very much looking forward to listening to the audio book, to pick up on the inevitable things I missed when reading.

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Rating: 9/10

Audio Book (2022) narrated by Moira Quirk

Rating: 10/10