Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Review of The Agency: A Spy in the House

The Agency: A Spy in the House
by Y. S. Lee
Young adult historical mystery
Available now in paperback

As you know, I rarely read books after they come out, mainly because as a bookseller I have to stay ahead of the game (and I prefer to read books that are free). But every so often a book will slip through the cracks and I'll spend a few days staring at it on the new release table. Usually, if I haven't heard any buzz about it from other booksellers, I won't read it--but sometimes I'm just too intrigued to pass it by.

A Spy in the House was one of these.

I just moved into a 133-year-old Victorian house, so I've been reading a lot of Victorian mysteries. It's interesting to read about families like the one that built my house in 1878. In A Spy in the House, young thief Mary Lang is rescued from a death sentence at the age of twelve and brought up in a finishing school. By the time she's sixteen, she's teaching there--but she's bored with life. She asks the headmasters if they can help her find a more exciting job, and is promptly inducted into The Agency, a network of female spies that does private investigation and works for Scotland Yard.

Mary finds herself posing as the paid companion of a spoiled young woman, trying to listen for information about a smuggling operation. Soon she gets bored and takes it upon herself to investigate more rigorously, which, as you might imagine, doesn't go exactly as planned.

Mary Lang is a sassy, badass heroine with a past that is shrouded in mystery. Her witty retorts and reckless decisions make this a typical Victorian mystery in some ways, while the social and ethnic questions (and the romance) are unique. I can't stop thinking about A Spy in the House, and I'm waiting extremely impatiently for my copy of the sequel to arrive tomorrow.

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