Book review: Ally O’Brien — The Agency

Note: I received an ARC of this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme.

Tess Drake is a high-flying literary agent on the staff of a top entertainment agency. Sufficiently high-flying that she wants to branch out on her own, rather than continue to take a salary that’s a fraction of the money she brings into the business. As the novel opens, she’s just been given one final push in that direction by the death of her boss. Tess liked Lowell; she loathes Cosima, the woman who’s about to take over, and the feeling’s mutual.

The problem for Tess is that she’s made more enemies than just Cosima along the way to success. She’s left frantically trying to put together her new business without letting slip what she’s doing, in the middle of the uproar generated by Lowell’s death from auto-erotic asphyxiation. Oh, and then there’s the police investigation into the suggestion that Lowell’s death wasn’t an accident, and that Tess might have had something to do with it.

It’s fast, funny, and more than a little over the top. It’s also unashamedly for an adult audience, as is obvious right from the first page. There is swearing and there is sex, and most of it is there for genuine plot and character development reasons. There’s also a lot of acidly funny commentary on the entertainment business, with much dropping of real names to add to the realism.

Tess is often unlikeable, but she’s also aware of her flaws, and there’s real growth in her character during the book. She’s also fiercely loyal to a few people for more than commercial reasons, and genuinely regrets the damage she’s accidentally caused to relationships she valued.

The book’s a blend of chick-lit and mystery, and does a good job of both, but is not going to appeal to everyone. I can see why the reviews on LibraryThing range from loathing to loving it. For me personally it was a page-turner, and while I sometimes wanted to shake some sense into Tess, by the last few chapters I very much wanted her to break free of the trap that had been laid for her. The novel is complete in itself and does have a satisfying ending, but I’d love to see what happened next. I’d gladly read a sequel to this book.

LibraryThing entry
ISBN: 978-0312379445 (hardback)

ETA: Amazon and Audible.com links deleted. See this post on my main blog about Amazon’s censorship of LGBT books for why.

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