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You are here: Home » Book Review » Three Stars » Rivals in the City by Y.S. Lee Book Review

Rivals in the City by YS LeeRIVALS IN THE CITY by Y.S. Lee Book Review
Series: The Agency, #4
Publication Date: March 10th 2015 by Candlewick Press
Rating:  – Acceptable

Book Summary: 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?

Book Review Overview:

  • I like how the series comes to a full circle and revisits the Thorold family
  • Not a lot of Mary and James in this book
  • Least favorite book in the series

After years of waiting, I finally had a chance to read Rivals in the City, the last book the the Agency series by Y.S. Lee. The Agency series is one of my favorites; I love the combination of history, romance, and mystery.

I really enjoyed how the series came to a full circle in this final installment. When Mr. Thorold falls deathly ill in jail, Miss Treleaven solicits Mary one last time to track down Mrs. Thorold. Mrs. Thorold has been living abroad for the past few years to evade authorities for the crimes linked to her husband’s cargo ships. Because Mrs. Thorold is a master at deception, Mary is the person most likely to track her down and uncover her plans.

Despite liking the premise of the plot, I felt that the actual execution fell short. I found the mystery to be dull and almost anti-climactic. There was a lot of telling in the book, as opposed to showing. I think the problem is that we already know who is committing the crime. Uncovering what the secret crime is turned out to be a lot less exciting for me.

One of my favorite parts of the book is when Mary meets her cousin and finds out more about her father’s background and unexplained absence. Mary’s familial background is one of the highlights of the series. I enjoyed learning more about her father with every book.

Unfortunately, I did not get enough of the James & Mary romance in the novel. In Rivals in the City, Mary and James agree to keep their distance in order to protect each other. James is the only living witness to Mrs. Thorold’s crimes and Mary’s investigation puts him at risk. I missed the witty banter between Mary and James.

Overall, this is probably my least favorite book out of the Agency series. It pains me to say it, but I just don’t think that Rivals in the City lives up to its predecessors. However, I would still continue to recommend the series. Mary is such a fantastic character, and I wish I would be able to continue reading about her in different mysteries.

About the Author

Y. S. Lee was born in Singapore but brought up in Canada. She also lived briefly in the United Kingdom. An academic with a PhD in Victorian literature and culture, she wrote MASCULINITY AND THE ENGLISH WORKING CLASS IN VICTORIAN AUTOBIOGRAPHY AND FICTION. She lives in Ontario, Canada.

Find the Author

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