As a homeless seventeen-year-old sleeping in the mountains of Colorado, Kip witnesses a murder and is seen by one of the killers. Fleeing for his life, Kip finds himself in a small town and meets Sheriff Mitch Long, who encourages him to find a simple job and start trying to build a life for himself. Eleven years later, Kip has a successful PI business and decides to hire John Rigby, a tattooed “biker type” who proves to be a good partner and friend with the potential to be more. Unfortunately, another murder, similar to the one Kip witnessed, forces him to face his feelings of guilt about not telling Sheriff Long what he saw and leads him on a path to confront his past while trying to survive to build a new future.
Although Kip has held some guilt over the years about his actions, it wasn’t brought to the forefront until he learned of a similar murder, begins investigating, and finds out there have been several similar ones over the years. Soon after, Kip hires John and they quickly build a rapport based on mutual respect and an attraction they are both reluctant to act on. As the two spend more time together, Kip confides in John and the two enlist Mitch’s help to flush the killers out of hiding, which has serious repercussions.
Depending on what you like in a story and the writing style(s) you prefer, The Agency can be a hit or miss. There is just enough character development established in the conversations between John and Kip that they aren’t completely flat and are likeable, but the shortness of the novel means any kind of in-depth character background or development is absent. For example, the reader is informed that Kip ran away from a bad family life and “chances are they threw a party when [he] left” but not much else is said. The same can be said for John; we get a general sense of his family life from a conversation with Kip and his protectiveness to slot him into the stereotypical “biker bad boy on the outside with a heart of gold in the warm gooey inside” archetype. Both characters are affable enough that the reader roots for them, but there isn’t much to make them memorable, particularly since the relationship development is more tell than show.
Additionally, there are enough grammatical errors/typos in key places to be distracting and at times the dialogue/inner monologues and banter came across a bit stiff, which is probably a function of the clean, straightforward writing style. While I do like this style, and felt the first two chapters are well done, the introduction of John and moving the plot along don’t flow as well in some parts of the narrative. In regards to the plot, while I found Kip’s plan to help bring the killers to justice interesting and the execution good, I’m not sure about the ending. To avoid spoilers, I will say that it does tie up any loose ends and makes sure Kip doesn’t have to make many sacrifices to the life he has built when he makes amends for his past silence, which is fine. It just seems a bit unrealistic in how simply it is portrayed.
While a few sentences inform the reader “this happened and of course Kip feels this about it,” the brevity of the delivery of their circumstances and the feelings associated with it makes it feel like something was missing from the ending. I think this feeling is also in part because, for me, although John and Kip have been together a couple of months before their lives are irrevocably changed, I didn’t really feel connected to the characters or the emotional investment the story told me they shared. The story’s ending tells me John loves Kip enough to completely change his life for him after only knowing him a few months, so I have to go with it, whether the story convincingly conveyed it or not. As someone who reads a lot of suspense and thrillers and who likes PI-centric stories, The Agency doesn’t have enough to make it stand out for me, but overall, it’s a good quick read.