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Monday, August 08, 2011

Lee's Delightful Victorian Spy Series Continues to Be a Breath of Fresh Air

(Image from Indiebound)

(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for The Agency: The Body at the Tower, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from The Agency: A Spy in the House. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

After successfully completing her first assignment as an operative for The Agency, a secret, all-female detective organization, 18-year-old Mary Quinn is eager for more. Even if it means acting the part of a grimy young street urchin. To investigate the mysterious after-hours death of a bricklayer on the building site of St. Stephen's Tower, Mary will disguise herself as a boy looking for his first job as a builder's assistant. Once she secures the position, she'll lay low, work hard, and keep her eyes and ears open for any clues as to the true fate of the bricklayer. The workers may believe John Wick died at the hands of a vindictive ghost, but Mary certainly doesn't.

Acting like a boy is tough enough for Mary; getting a group of crusty laborers to trust her enough to talk freely in her presence is nearly impossible. When she spies the handsome figure of a certain engineer on the building site, she's terrified that her old nemesis James Easton will blow her cover. Instead, the two form an alliance. Once again, Mary's relying on the infuriating gentleman to help with her case. Once again, she's lying to him about who she really is and what she's really doing. As much as James sometimes irritates her, Mary hates to deceive the man who's been occupying her daydreams ever since she met him.

The more clues Mary uncovers about the bricklayer's death, the more intriguing the mystery becomes. And the more dangerous. It's not long before Mary's fighting for her own life, not to mention that of one very charming young gentleman. Can Mary survive long enough to find the killer? Or will she become the next victim?

The Body at the Tower, the second volume in Y.S. Lee's delightful The Agency series, offers another fun romp through the sordid underbelly of Victorian England. With colorful characters, a compelling mystery, and a lively romantic subplot, it's simply a good, old-fashioned tale of derring-do. After reading so much dark, depressing YA fiction, this series truly is a breath of fresh air. I'm tempted to fly to the U.K. right now, just to get my hands on the next book. Spring 2012, come soon!

(Readalikes: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee; a little like A Golden Web by Barbara Quick)

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for mild language (no F-bombs) and some mild innuendo - one of which is quick, but fairly graphic (hence, the PG-13 rating)

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of The Body at the Tower from the generous folks at Candlewick Press. Thank you!


  1. These books sound so interesting. Victorian, about women, and mysteries. Three thing that I love -- I'll have to get a hold of these books. Great review.

  2. The next one's not coming out until next year? Argh. I need it sooner. Love these :)

  3. I love this series as well! I can't wait for the next one to come out. I'd love to order it online, but I'd rather wait for the spiffy US cover instead.


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