The great Devin McKinney reviews Jake Arnott's The House of Rumour for Critics at Large:
Engrossing as pure story, the novel is also an education, as the broad outlines of World War II and the ensuing half-century are reconfigured in and by the voices of people whose split decisions nudged the levers of history, or whose visionary hunches foretold its outcomes....[R]eading the novel, I thought of Robert Anton Wilson (especially Masks of the Illuminati, which germinates from similar principles), James Ellroy (American Tabloid, in its interconnections and narrative density), Thomas Harris (canny prose incorporating deep research into language, history, art, science), and David Thomson (Suspects and Silver Light, novels built from the secret parts of familiar, albeit fictional, lives).
[...] Yet Arnott’s mesh of fantasy and fact holds together as a novel. He makes scenes live, both in their moments and as parts of a whole. He has no trouble slipping into his characters’ skins, transmitting empathically from their often lonesome, disturbed interiors. His Ian Fleming is a mesmerizing creation. As the MI5 agent tasked with, among other things, investigating the Hess premonition, Fleming also lives out a tormented dynamic with his never-named “other self . . . the hollow man of his imagination” – he who will, after the war, emerge as James Bond. This cold, deadly cipher, “the empty hero of Fleming’s private narrative,” is the void into which Fleming can deposit his own depths, themselves empty of any passion save masochism. More than brilliant, it is revelatory, even moving, of Arnott to depict Bond as his creator’s tortured and torturing doppelgänger, the cruel Quilty to Fleming’s suffering Humbert. (And upon meeting the aged diabolist Aleister Crowley – England’s most notorious hedonist, tapped by MI5 for his insight into Nazi occultism – Fleming finds the prototype of Le Chiffre, Blofeld, Goldfinger: Bond’s fat, grinning supervillains!)