By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
By Daniel O’Malley (HarperCollins, $29.99, softcover, 486 pages)
Plenty of praise and hype have gone hand-in-hand for this first novel from Daniel O’Malley, a Canberra Public Servant, who has delivered a splendidly imaginative, gripping and often wry suspenseful story.
The Rook dexterously bestrides the fine line between thriller, fantasy and parody. Its whimsical nature and a mystery-spiked plot develops slowly and is anything but docile.
What’s more, it has an extraordinary introduction that ensnares you:
“Dear You,It has an explosive start as Myfanwy Thomas wakes in a rainy London park, surrounded by a ring of dead bodies, all wearing latex gloves. She has no idea how she or the corpses got there.
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...”
She soon learns that she’s a Rook, a high-ranking member of the Checquy, a secret organisation which does daily battle with dark and deadly supernatural forces in Britain. Her job lacks glamour and she is more a paper-pusher than field agent.
However, she possesses an uncommon, potentially lethal supernatural ability.
As she searches for those who betrayed her and why, Myfanwy come across not only unusual folk, but also an unimaginable conspiracy.
By understanding the value of fine-tuning established patterns, Daniel O’Malley has turned a genre novel into a book of wild imagination that’s overflowing with wit.
The simple originality uses the principles not as a set of instructions, but more like building blocks.
Filled with characters both captivating and fantastical, The Rook is a splendidly imaginative, gripping and often wry narrative where a concise sense of humour prevents the story from becoming too tedious.
Edition 302, 28 February 2012
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.