Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household begins where a more typical espionage thriller would end– after the assassination attempt has failed. When the novel opens, the unnamed narrator has already been captured by his enemies, he has already undergone intense interrogation and has already escaped. He is on the run, trying to flee one country for another, looking for a place to hide. We do not know who he is, who he tried to kill, who he is working for or even if he is someone we should be siding with. What he tells us is how he escaped from his captors, how he got back to England and how he built what should have been the perfect hiding place.
This makes Rogue Male a kind of procedural. But it’s not a police procedural clearly, we are following the how-to story of someone operating outside the law. How the narrator bluffs his way onto a ship heading for England, how he finds the place to dig his hide-out, and the hide-out itself are fascinating reading. Along a nearly abandoned road in Wales, the narrator finds a brush covered spot where he can tunnel out a large warren, large enough to stretch out when he lies down and to sit up straight when he sits up. He disguises the hideout so that it looks like a badger’s home and basically locks himself in, planning to hide there until it is safe enough to leave the country.
So we know he was not working for England when he made the assassination attempt, but who was he working for and who was he trying to kill and, of course, why. This makes for an uneasy sort of dramatic tension in the novel. The reader naturally wants a narrator to succeed, and this narrator is a likable one, sympathetic since he is the victim of a brutal interrogation and was left for dead. Will his pursuers find him? Should we want them to? This tension makes the novel’s 190 pages difficult to put down.
Household write a second book featuring the main character in Rogue Male, called Rogue Justice along with many other nvoels, but I’ve yet to read another one of them. I did go out and buy a couple after reading Rogue Male back in 2008 when I wrote this review for my old blog Ready When You Are, C.B. It’s been on my TBR shelf ever since. It’s funny how things sometimes work out that way. Have you ever run out to buy book two and then never read it?