Title: A Spy in the House
Author: Y.S. Lee
Source/Format: Purchased, Paperback
More Details: Young Adult, Historical, Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: Candlewick Press, March 9, 2010
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Synopsis 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...
For starters, the plot was incredibly interesting. A Spy in the House was definitely a mystery at heart, intertwined with historical elements based in 1850s London, and the concept of a secret agency made up of women, exclusively. Lee did a relatively good job capturing the time period, and portraying what it was like for women of the time, through the eyes of the main character, Mary Quinn.
I liked Mary as a character. Her life wasn’t easy, but she grasped the opportunities that came to her. She had a desire to do more with her life than take up a profession more common to the time period, which significantly limited her options to things like teaching or being a governess. There was also a slew of interesting character that came from a variety of backgrounds. As such, I liked the way Lee showed the different characters and their interactions with Mary throughout the course of the novel.
The case handed to Mary was interesting. It dealt with missing cargo ships, questionable merchants, and a great deal of playing the part of a lady’s companion. From the very first page, there was enough suspense and action to keep me interested. There was romance, but it was nicely balanced with the mystery and never took the focus away from the plot.
So, A Spy in the House keeps its place as one of my favorite books, and I look forward to getting to A Body at the Tower and The Traitor in the Tunnel. And maybe, finally, I’ll get around to picking up the last book to see how the series ends.