The latest addition to Edgar Award-winning author John Feinstein's excellent sports mystery series finds Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson covering the Army-Navy football game for their national newspaper jobs. They quickly learn about the intense rivalry dating back over 110 years and get up to speed on the current issues, including suspicious officials and heavy secret service attention. Juggling sports writing, freshman year of high school, and even their budding romance is difficult, but it certainly makes for fast-paced, fun reading.
In THE RIVALRY, Feinstein ties in his in-depth knowledge of the nationally famous Army-Navy rivalry as he wrote a book about it titled A CIVIL WAR: ARMY VS. NAVY: A Year Inside College Football's Purest Rivalry. The players are not eying NFL contracts; instead, they're looking for honor before heading out for five years of serving their country. Each aspect of this game is steeped in history and pride, and is woven in through fascinating details.
The presence of the secret service alerts Stevie and Susan Carol that this is no ordinary game, as the President plans to attend. Susan Carol is assigned to travel with Navy to a Notre Dame game, the last competition before Army-Navy. She eats with the midshipmen, interviews them and learns about their special traditions. Stevie spends his time with the Army side, going to a game with Georgia Tech for similar coverage. But at Susan Carol's game, she and the rest of the reporters are stunned by some unbelievable calls, which lead to a Notre Dame victory. She writes a scathing article for the Post, which leads to her getting threatening letters and emails to the editor.
Stevie manages to get into some trouble as well when he argues with former basketball coach Bobby Knight. He and Susan Carol also get into hot water when they ask about security for the game and question secret service officials about possible dangers to the President that may occur during the contest. A really fun scene involves the young writers having a chance to interview Barack Obama. They do slip in a question about the secret service, but manage to pull off a great session.
Atmosphere is everything in THE RIVALRY. Readers will be able to sense the action of the plays during the games, the tension and clues surrounding villains, and the pomp and circumstance of this special event. Feinstein's books read like an exciting game --- plenty of action, trivia, famous people his audience will recognize, interesting players and satisfying conclusions. Even non-sports fans will find a lot to enjoy here.
--- Reviewed by Amy Alessio