Publication Date: 6th April 2009
Age Group: Young Adult
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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
Mary Lang is a criminal, a child thief, and is scheduled to hang for her crimes. Until, that is, she is rescued by a group of extraordinary women and whisked off to safety at Miss Scrimshaws Academy For Girls as Mary Quinn.
At 17, Mary Quinn is trying to find her place in life. She's sure she's not cut out for marriage, or for life as a governess or ladies companion, so Mary rejoices when her rescuers offer her a chance to join the Agency and her adventures can begin.
What I Liked: I bought all three Agency books on www.bookdepository.com earlier this year after I failed to find a trace of them in my local libraries and bookshelves.For some reason the idea behind the Agency books struck a cord and I was desperate to read them.
Mary's introduction to us as a child headed for the noose shows us a young woman who has faced desperation. It makes her an ideal protagonist: a girl loyal to her employees, who understands the London underground, and one who is willing to put everything on the line for her cause.
Mary faces a constant struggle between who she is and the disguise she must show the world, and Lee has created an endearing inner struggle as Mary comes to terms with her cultural identity (more on that in book two).
I'm not much for mysteries, but Lee has created an adventure in Spy in the House that I want to join. There were plenty of clues (in hindsight) but just enough confusion to keep you off the scent of the culprit.
Of course, James Eaton is a constant distraction from the case and Mary refuses to acknowledge his presence as a pleasant one. The verbal sparing between the two was both sweet and entertaining.
What I Didn't Like: The intensive training Mary receives at the beginning of the book is skipped over completely and left me disappointed. Part of the appeal of a spy book is 'learning' the tricks of the trade. I also would have liked a few examples of the coded letters sent between Mary and the Agency.
The book is a wonderful first step in an exciting new series. The next book, Body at the Tower, and the third book, The Body at the Tower, have been released and we are awaiting the final instalment, Rivals in the City, sometime next year.