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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review: The Agency, A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

The Agency, A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: YA, mystery, suspense
Hardback  355 pages
Book Source: borrowed from the library
My Rating: 94/100

From Goodreads:

Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction in fine manners — and an unusual vocation. Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls is a cover for an all-female investigative unit called The Agency, and at seventeen, Mary is about to put her training to the test. Assuming the guise of a lady’s companion, she must infiltrate a rich merchant’s home in hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the household is full of dangerous deceptions, and there is no one to trust — or is there? Packed with action and suspense, banter and romance, and evoking the gritty backstreets of Victorian London, this breezy mystery debuts a daring young detective who lives by her wits while uncovering secrets — including those of her own past.

My Thoughts:

Mary Quinn is given a second chance at life at the tender age 12. Mary realizes the significant opportunity she has been granted and works hard to better herself and impress her benefactors. Mary is a smart, hard working, intelligent young woman, who wants more from life. She needs purpose. Mary feels as though she ought to be "doing something" with her second chance, and in comes the Agency.

The Agency is a discreet female spy network operating in Victorian London. Perfect for the time period because most Victorians would never suspect a woman of anything too intelligent. Why she would probably get the vapors from thinking too hard! Mary goes to work for the agency and her first assignment is the topic of the story. I loved Mary Quinn and this book! She is a wonderful character with ingenuity, a big heart and just enough spunk to get her through tough situations. What is also striking is her appearance. She is described as being exotic looking and Mary states she is Irish, which seems to be a good reason. I don't want to spoil the story, but Mary's ancestry is discussed, and I adored this aspect of her character. It is refreshing and different, and something I never thought of before. My heart went out to Mary when I learned more about her history.

As for the story and the characters, I liked all of them, even the villain of the story. In retrospect, some may figure out the mystery of the story faster than me, but there was more to the story than the mystery. As Mary grows into a competent young woman so does the other young character. She also surprised me quite a bit too.

I thought the writing was quite good and Lee totally sucked me into the story. The point of view did alternate occasionally but I thought it worked well. I liked the air of suspense and there were times when I was zipping through the pages. I read this book in four days which is pretty fast for me, but I would have read it in one sitting if I could have. It is a quick story, but packs a punch. This is the first book in a planned trilogy and I can't wait to read the next one.
For more information about Y.S. Lee, please visit her website:

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