The Rook

The letter the amnesiac protagonist of The Rook finds in her jacket pocket begins: "Dear You. The body you are wearing used to be mine." As the note's author, Myfanwy Thomas, explains, she knew her own life was in danger, and in particular that her memory might be stolen, so she prepared an elaborate set of instructions to help bring herself back up to speed and help her cope when the people who tried to kill her come back for a second attempt. Oh, and there's one other thing her new self should know: she's one of the highest-ranking officers in the Checquy, the secret British agency that deals with supernatural threats to the nation.

Daniel O'Malley's contribution to the growing field of high-octane paranormal spy thrillers is filled with smart flourishes. The Checquy is a centuries-old institution, with a command structure modeled after chess pieces, and clever bits of its history occasionally pop up in the background. As Myfanwy regains her footing, she realizes that her previous self was shy and unassertive, but she decides to take a much more aggressive approach as she resumes the hunt for the traitor (or traitors) within the organization.

O'Malley keeps a humorous edge--including the timely arrival of a sassy American colleague--to Myfanwy's uncertainty without diminishing the threat level. Very few of the plot developments are obvious, and the ones that are don't undermine the suspense. There's some wiggle room for a sequel, but The Rook stands on its own as an entertaining integration of paranormal flash with watertight espionage narrative. --Ron Hogan, founder of

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