Who is Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany) Thomas? Myfanwy herself would like to know. At the beginning of Daniel O’Malley’s clever genre-bender, The Rook, “On Her Majesty’s Supernatural Secret Service,” a young woman wakes up in a London park with no memory of herself. A letter in her pocket, which begins “Dear You” and is signed “Sincerely, Me” tells her that she now inhabits the body of Myfanwy Alice Thomas. A second letter offers her a choice — leave London immediately and assume a new, moneyed identity far, far away, or become Myfanwy Thomas and track down the killers of the real Myfanwy’s memories. The second choice is more dangerous given that the new Myfanwy is surrounded by motionless bodies wearing latex gloves and that unknown enemies are hot on her trail. Move, Myfanwy!
More letters from “Me” provide explanations and instructions as Myfanwy pretends to be her former self, a high-level operative in the Chequy, the secret government agency that guards Britain against supernatural threats. There are more of these than you might imagine, and Myfanwy gets on-the-job training almost immediately when she’s called on to fight a mysterious, enveloping purple fungus. Thank goodness she has some special powers. She’s going to need them as she not only contends with ghosts, ghoulies and grafters, but also a conspiracy within the shadow world of the Chequy.
This might sound a tad complicated, but O’Malley’s narrative is fast-paced and funny, a la Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels and the BBC’s Dr. Who-spinoff, Torchwood. There’s some similar deft world-building as well, the villains are dastardly indeed, and there’s more to appealing Mywfany than meets the eye. Fun, fun, fun. Sign me up for the sequel.
Open Book: I read a digital edition of The Rook by Daniel O’Malley (Little, Brown) provided by the publisher through NetGalley. Since it is about to expire, I’ll be buying a copy to keep and reread.