The Agency 1: A Spy in the House Y.S. Lee
Immediately after being sentenced to the gallows at the age of 12, Mary Lang is spirited away by the warden where she ends up at Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for girls. In Victorian London, options for women are limited, and Miss Scrimshaw's tries to give girls that best chance they have to make their own way.
So, five years later, when Mary (who has changed her last name to Quinn, as Mary Lang is still a wanted criminal) isn't satisfied with any of the options available to her, she feels guilty and selfish-- Miss Scrimshaw's has given her everything-- who is she to say that it isn't enough?
But Miss Scrimshaw's Academy has one more ace up its sleeve-- The Agency. The Agency are spies for hire. Taking full advantage of women's role in society, they're allowed to go places and overhear things men aren't.
Mary's first job is to pose as a lady's companion in the house of a man suspected of smuggling Indian goods. But, nothing is as it seems. Mary's not the only person looking into Thorold's financial dealings. The daughter has her own thing going. The deeper Mary gets in the case, the darker and more dangerous she gets and the closer she comes to the really big secrets of her past (and no, not the fact that she's an escaped convict sentenced to hang.)
First off, OMG love. I CANNOT wait until The Agency 2: The Body at the Tower comes out in August.
I really liked how the female characters are strong and biting against societal conformities while still seeming historically accurate-- they don't openly rebel, they know their place, but find ways around the rules.
I also loved James, the engineer who's also digging around in the Thorold case in order to save his brother from a disastrous match.
Craft-wise, I loved the way that the omniscient third-person narrator changes focus between Mary and James, to further flesh out and add to the mystery and action of the puzzle. Also, this works as a stand-alone novel. I want to read the next one because I love the premise and Mary, not because it was a 335-page lead-up to a sucker-punch of a cliffhanger.
Overall, really super awesome. The plot took a million little twists and turns that kept me on the edge of my seat and wanting more, more, more. It kept me up waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay past bedtime.
Book Provided by... my local library
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