Review: Rivals in the City (The Agency #4) by Y.S. Lee
The first thing I want to say is that if you haven't started reading this series yet and love mysteries plus romance, I don't know what you're doing with your life. I first fell in love with the quartet of books when James and Mary first found each other hiding in the same wardrobe, and I've enjoyed the first three books immensely. So I guess what I'm saying is...read it.
Now you may have noticed that I said I loved the first three books. I said that intentionally. This fourth book wasn't so great. The end of this book was a romantic, satisfying finale to the Mary Quinn mysteries,but it wasn't at all what I was hoping for. It didn't hold a candle to the last three novels, and soon enough I just wanted the book to end. There weren't enough James and Mary moments for my tastes, and the mystery didn't intrigue me as much as it usually would have - it wasn't as interesting and in-depth as the mysteries in the other books are.
Before starting the novel, I read a review somewhere that said that the author's writing in this book was terrible compared to the others in the series. I'll have to disagree. The writing and tone of the story is on par with Lee's other books; it was just the story that didn't do it for me. In Rivals in the City, we finally get the whole story on what really happened to Mary's father. We also meet a new person in this novel; he's actually a very interesting guy (no, he's not part of a love triangle, calm your horses). While I appreciated getting to know Mary's past, the grand revealing took up less than a chapter, and had little to no significance in the overall plot. I just wish it would have played a bigger part in the novel, if not the entire series. Maybe there could have even been a book where the main mystery was the one about her father?
Oh, and here's the funny thing. It seems that in the couple of years since I read the last book, I've gained an addiction to absolutely delicious characters. In fact, I think I've grown to enjoy the characters themselves more than the plot, and that may explain my lack of enthusiasm about this specific installment. Mary and James are wonderful characters, but this book focuses on the mystery aspect much more than it does the characters. Indeed, the characters sometimes seemed like nothing more than plot devices to carry out, well, the plot. And of course I wasn't exactly ecstatic about the lack of witty banter between James and Mary that has always been present in the other books.
I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that Mary and James weren't the I'm-totally-in-love-with-you type of couple right at the start of the novel. I tend to get bored of couples when reading their happily ever afters (I know, I suck), so my interest in their relationship didn't drop or anything. Still, there were few moments and conversations between the two, and though I loved how quaint their last conversation was, it wasn't enough. I'm used to witty banter between the couple, as well as them working on the current mystery together. In this book, however, James barely had a part. It was disheartening.
I may not have enjoyed this novel as much as I did the others, but I'm still as in love with the series as I was before reading this. Rivals in the City is the last book in the series, and the last few pages of the novel provided just enough closure to keep me happy. I can't see myself ever re-reading this book, but I hope someday I'll find the time for the other three. As for now, I'm extremely happy knowing that Mary and James will live on through more mysteries and obnoxiously adorable flirting even though I won't be there to see it.
Book Synopsis: In a tale steeped in action, romance, and the gaslit intrigue of Victorian London, Mary Quinn’s detective skills are pitted against a cunning and desperate opponent.
Mary Quinn has a lot on her mind. James Easton, her longtime love interest, wants to marry her; but despite her feelings, independent-minded Mary hesitates. Meanwhile, the Agency has asked Mary to take on a dangerous case: convicted fraudster Henry Thorold is dying in prison, and Mary must watch for the return of his estranged wife, an accomplished criminal herself who has a potentially deadly grudge against James. Finally, a Chinese prizefighter has arrived in town, and Mary can’t shake a feeling that he is somehow familiar. With the stakes higher than ever, can Mary balance family secrets, conflicting loyalties, and professional expertise to bring a criminal to justice and find her own happiness?