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The Agency    by Ally O'Brien order for
by Ally O'Brien
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In The Agency, Ally O'Brien (a writing duo) gives readers a witty and entertaining tale of ups, downs and regular crises in the life of tough but glamorous London literary agent Tess Drake. The story begins with a bang (or perhaps that should be a whimper) with the death of Ally's boss Lowell, seemingly from erotic asphyxia. Since the agency is now under the aegis of Ally's archenemy, Cosima Tate - 'the kind of witch who would have bitch-slapped Dorothy and served up Toto sausages to the flying monkeys' - she decides she wants out, and plans to launch her own agency, supported by her able young assistant Emma.

Going out on her own should be a no brainer. After all, Ally's about to ink a new contract with her main (and very loyal) client Dorothy Starkwell, who 'writes tomes about talking pandas that have become the biggest thing in children's fiction since Pooh set foot in the Hundred Acre Wood.' But of course matters quickly get complicated, starting with a police detective's questioning Ally about Lowell's death. This is soon followed by someone claiming that Dorothy stole the idea for her books from another writer.

At first, Ally doesn't seem like a very likeable character - she calls herself a tough negotiator and 'a pushy bitch', and she alienated her best friend by sleeping with Saleema's fiancÚ. She also has a secret married lover she calls Darcy. But she's true to her calling in her support - against Cosima's wishes - of self-destructive author Oliver Howard, whose first fantasy novel blew her away, but was in no way a commercial success. Oliver is a friend who gives Ally advice she doesn't want to take - but she does want to help him.

As the plot thickens, Ally falls into a trap laid by several people around her, leaving her plans in ruins. But of course that's not how it ends, and though the resolution is predictable, it's also tons of fun. I enjoyed The Agency very much and recommend it to you as a frothy but highly satisfying read.

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