The Agency 1: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

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Title: The Agency 1: A Spy in the House
Author: Y.S. Lee
Release Date: March 9, 2010 (hardcover)
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: 352
Source: ARC received from publisher through Bookurious

Overall: 4 Stars

Introducing an exciting new series! Steeped in Victorian atmosphere and intrigue, this diverting mystery trails a feisty heroine as she takes on a precarious secret assignment.

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.  

I'll admit, I don't read enough YA novels in the historical genre, so I was pretty excited when I set my eyes on A Spy in the House. I mean, a teenage girl living in Victorian England who works for an agency to investigate crimes... doesn't that sound just so cool?

Mary Quinn was sentenced to the gallows at the age of twelve for being the thief, but was saved and given a new chance for life as a student at Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls. A few years later, Mary has come a long way and is about to undertake her first assignment for the Agency. Her goal: She will become the lady companion of Angelica Thorold in order to learn if her father's merchant business has been having illegal dealings in his shipments. Mary will have to keep her wits in order to hide her true identity... but it would seem she's not the only one hiding something. Appearances can be deceiving and there are members of the Thorold household with their own secrets. 

The setting is perfectly described in A Spy in the House, with wonderful descriptions and dialogue that make it oh so easy to lose yourself in Victorian England. And, of course, it wouldn't be a good historical novel if there weren't some scandalous events just waiting in the background to occur.

Mary Quinn is a strong heroine who definitely knows how to take care of herself. Independent, smart... she's also not too afraid to break rules of social etiquette if need be. Throughout the novel, Mary also grows as a person, learning a few things about her past that I can't wait to see explored in the next novel.

James Easten. Isn't that just a name that rolls so nicely off the tongue? James is also investigating the Thorold household, for his own reasons, when he meets Mary and immediately finds himself drawn to her. The constant bantering between him and Mary were some of my favourite parts to read in the novel!

Mystery, intrigue and a dash of romance, A Spy in the House has just the right amount of elements to keep your eyes wide as Mary tries to learn the truth about the Thorold's. 

The second novel in the series, The Body at the Tower, is released today (August 10) and I just can't wait to see what's in store for Mary Quinn next! 

You can check out Y.S. Lee's website here.

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  1. This one's on my to-read list, glad you liked it. Great review!

  2. Great review. I admit, I'm not big on historical. It has to take something really special to get to me.

  3. Great review, heard this one's really good. I have this one on my shelves and will probably try to get to it this year.

  4. I loved this book and am so excited to read the second one. Now I wish my library would hurry up and order a copy!