Rated Reads

The Agency: A Spy in the House

by Y.S. Lee

Rated: Mild

After being orphaned very young in Victorian London, Mary Quinn turned to thievery. Unfortunately, she got caught. At age 12, she had resigned herself to the gallows when she was rescued and taken to a girls’ school. Five years later, she learned from two of the schools’ teachers that the school existed in part to front a detective agency, and her teachers feel that Mary would be a great spy. Will she do it?

So Mary finds herself on her first case, assigned to be a companion to a young lady her age in a wealthy shipping magnate’s home. Her job is simply to keep her ears open for any talk in the home about possible smuggling and missing ships, while other agency operatives do the more investigative work. But after some time of hearing nothing, Mary takes it upon herself to do more digging. Of course, she runs into danger and ends up making unexpected alliances, all in the hope of helping the cause and making her teachers proud.

I found A Spy in the House to be mostly interesting for its setting and the idea that women at that time were working in a very unusual job, finding their own way and supporting themselves without being dependent on husbands (although the author becomes a bit too heavy-handed in her references to this unfair situation for women in that era). The mystery of who exactly is doing what illegally in the shipping business is actually a secondary part of the story, and not something that kept my interest as much as just the tale of a girl who was given a second chance in life in a time that was particularly tough on females who had nothing. A couple of small items strained credulity for me, but overall, it was a good read. Those who enjoy it particularly will be happy to know there are more in a series.

Rated: Mild, for some uses of mild language. The main character actually uses “d-” a number of times, and although she was living a rough life as a child, it is hard to believe that after five years of training to be a lady that she still uses any “bad language” at all.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • The Agency: A Spy in the House
  • by Y.S. Lee
  • Rated: Mild
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: