A Spy in the House (The Agency # 1) by Y.S. Lee

[Guest post by ForTheLoveOfBooks.  –CS]

From Goodreads

 Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction on 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 man’s home in hope of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the household is filled with dangerous deceptions, and there’s 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 young detective who lives by her wits while uncovering secrets including those of her own past.

I first came across A Spy In The House after watching Priscilla’s Review  for the book and I thought it would be a great read. I’m happy to say that it didn’t disappoint me at all! I don’t think my reviews would be complete without dedicating some attention to the cover of course. I like the cover of this book, especially Mary’s gaze towards the side. There’s something mysterious about it and it suits the plot. Also the house pictured on the cover reminds me of “The Noble House of Black” from the Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix  movie. The verdict is: I approve of the cover and now it’s time to move onto more fascinating aspects of the book!

As goodreads has explained, the story follows the life of Mary Quinn from being an orphaned thief to novice detective as she has started to work on her first case. The story centers mainly in London, while places like Brighton and India are mentioned briefly. The importance of these locations become evident as the story progresses.

The plot is enjoyable and fast paced. By fast paced I mean, the story begins in 1853 and by pg.11 we have already time traveled to 1858 where Mary is seventeen years old and is working as an instructor for Miss.Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls, only to be introduced later to The Agency; an elite female detective organization headed by Anne Treleaven and Felicity Frame. These two women are also Mary’s mentors, especially Anne. Still focusing on the pace of the book, I think what I found strange, yet good was the pace moved steadily as the story progressed. I didn’t feel as if any of the chapters acted as fillers for the entire story. All aspects were relevant, even in a minor way. However my only disappointment was that the fast pace let the story down a bit. The aspect here I’m referring to is the training Mary undergoes prior to setting off on her assignment. I would have liked to know more about her training and the interactions between Mary and the instructors. To see the protagonist pushed to her limits would have been an element worth exploring. The plot twists were surprising and enjoyable. Mary’s heritage was one that came as a surprise and I would like to see how that story arc is developed in the next book.

Moving on to characters, I really liked Mary Quinn. She was feisty,strong,  smart, witty and realistic. I admired her strength as a character and she carried the book from beginning to end for me. There wasn’t a point where I disliked her at all,except I may have wanted her to respond a bit more forcefully when she was being mocked by certain characters, but that’s just a minor flaw. The male protagonist/love interest James Easton was great as well. He was everything you wanted a Victorian love interest to be, despite being a bit of jerk sometimes. I enjoyed the chemistry between Mary and James and I can’t wait to read of his return in the third book (that’s correct, I read the synopsis for the following two books!). Looking at the Thorold Family, which consists of the married couple Mr & Mrs. Thorold and their spoilt daughter Angelica, there wasn’t much to like about them. They were your snobby and arrogant Merchant family, but I have to say I liked Angelica towards the end. As for the ladies at the Scrimshaw Academy, not much information is revealed about them and I hope that changes in the next book. The other minor secondary characters like George Easton and Alfred Quigley were well written and played their parts to make the story more interesting.

Overall I really enjoyed A Spy In The House. I honestly haven’t read any YA Historical Fiction that takes place in Victorian England and I’m glad this book was my first. It was nice to see a strong female character in the centre of the plot. Another thing that I appreciated in this book was that there wasn’t a complete focus on a romantic aspect. Yes, there were interactions between Mary and James, but a lot of focus was not devoted to it, which I assume is rather rare in fiction today. The plot twists and the attention to London in the 1850’s was wonderful and I appreciated Lee’s focus on the attitudes present in 1800s and it’s fascinating to see the differences of society, interactions and beliefs. I can’t wait to read The Body At The Tower (I’ve already ordered it from the library)!

My Rating: 4/5

Would I recommend it ? Definitely

Here’s fan made book trailer for A Spy In The House.Personally I thought it was well done! 

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