Book ReviewRivals in the City

Reviewer's Rating: 
Don't you hate a fence sitter, and yet, this is where this book falls, not bad but not great.
Candlewick Press, 2014

Mary Quinn and James Easton have set up as private detectives and are also unofficially engaged to be married. But when the Agency asks Mary to take on a special final case, she can't resist, and agrees. Convicted fraudster Henry Thorold (from book one, A Spy in the House) is dying in prison. His daughter, Angelica, is coming to see him one last time. Mary's brief is to monitor these visits in case Mrs Thorold, last heard of as a fugitive in France, decides to pay him one last visit. But Mrs Thorold's return would place James in grave personal danger. Thanks to the complications of love and family loyalties, the stakes for everyone involved are higher than ever.

This much anticipated book, and closure of the Mary Quinn mystery series wasn't quite what I expected. It reads much like a sequel to the first book, with the exception of the engagement between Mary and James. The first half of the book waffles in doubts. James is afraid for Mary. Mary is afraid for James. Nobody knows if Mrs Thorhold is around or will be around. This is a disappointing flavor for us as readers. Certainly the first three books have their moments of indecision, but our characters have always been strong, independent and very capable individuals. All this worry and teeth gnashing is unlike them and not a credit to the series as a whole.

The second faltering move is the romance between Mary and James. This was a major draw for readers. Their dialogue was witty & smart. The chemistry was always quite well done. I'm not sure where it went, but it was not to be found in these pages. For the most part, they are separated, but neither the opening or closing when they were together held any spark that I could find. It was most perplexing to me as I loved the series up to this point.

I must admit my own winter doldrums might be a bit reflected in my review of this book. I so wanted something to catapult me away from the grey, tired days of winter yawning it's last goodbye (I hope!) that perhaps my expectations were too high.

3/4 of the way through, there is a shift in gear and it reads quickly and strongly like we are used to - and quite relieved the book finally hits its stride. Is it too little too late? Personally, I think YS Lee needs to start fresh and write a new series. This one has fizzled out, but she as a writer is one I'll keep on my watch list.

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