tl;dr: Anti-masker chases down wife and kid. Finds more than he bargained for.
Cabot Howard is not a nice man.
I go into most stories expecting to root for the protagonist, but this hits a little too close to what’s happening in the world right now – a pandemic caused by airborne viruses, a lingering paranoia, deniers who are too full of themselves to be part of the possible solution, and no traffic on the roads. In any case, this is my first encounter with pandemic fiction resulting from COVID-19, a genre we will no doubt see more of in months and weeks to come.
Anyway, we find Cabot racing his fancy car to his ex-wife’s hometown because Leana took off with their son “without his permission”, which is already a red flag on many levels. He wants Porter back, of course, but things take a turn for the weird when he gets to Rookfield. Sure, the adults are wearing masks and he doesn’t get any service if he doesn’t put one on, but what’s with all the kids wearing full-face Plague Doctor masks? And what’s with the town’s bird obsession?
I won’t exactly call Rookfield a pleasant read. Cabot’s headspace is a cringe-worthy place to be idling in while he attempts to barge his way through people who don’t like him and don’t want him around. But the author keeps his protagonist just interesting enough for you to go along for the ride to see if this will end in redemption or comeuppance.
And the strangeness of what’s actually up in Rookfield also proved to be a great hook, or even THE hook, which unfortunately leaves us wanting at the end. I want to know more about how the town and its residents fell into this creeptastic scenario. Should Rookfield be a novel instead of a novella, we might have learned more about this strange little backwoods town and its avian secrets. Something for another book, perhaps?
Gordon B White isn’t an author I’ve read before, but this isn’t surprising since my reading habits have stayed local lately. I came across his tweet quite by chance, and the genre was right. It’s been a hot minute since I reviewed anything because my iPad 2 finally died, and I can’t afford a new reading device. Turned out that my new (bigger!) phone worked well enough. So, more reviews forthcoming?
This ARC was courtesy of author Gordon B White in exchange for an honest review. Rookfield will be released by Trepidatio Publishing on 15 October 2021. You can pre-order your copy here.