Thursday, May 10, 2012

"The Agency: A Spy in the House" by Y. S. Lee

Insurance fraud.
Sunken ships.
Guilt money.
A ransacked office.
There was at least one more missing detail...

Mary Lang is a preteen girl living in the streets of Victorian era London. She picks pockets and breaks into houses to survive, until she is caught and sentenced to hang.
When she is miraculously rescued from the gallows and sent to Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls, it's a new life. A life away from the crime and theivery she left behind. It's a new chance to be independent- a rare thing in Victorian era Britain.
But when Mary, now going with the last name of Quinn, finds herself yearning for more, she is hired by the headmistresses of the academy to work for The Agency- a top secret detective agency exclusively for women agents.
Mary's thrilled to be working for The Agency, and even more thrilled when she recieves her first assignment. Posing as a hired companion, she's to assist a more experienced agent in investigating missing ships containing smuggled items. But not all is as it seems in the household, and no one is who they appear to be.

Just before he caught her, she had a moment of sick premonition. It had been the same way the first time- the last time- she'd been caught. A flash of dread, of knowing. And then it happened.

I picked this book up from the library because I'm fascinated by the Victorian era. I decided that it looked interesting, took it home, and read it in what would amount to about 24 hours. It's a pretty fast read, particularly once you get more than halfway into it.

The interesting thing about this book is not just that the characters are amazing, but that it seems like an incredibly realistic portrayal of Victorian era London. The jacket says that the author completed her PhD in Victorian literature and culture, and studied London. You can definitely tell this while reading the book- she includes many details that make the backdrop of this book to be exciting and foreign- and yet utterly realistic.

The characters are also quite amazing- Particularly James and Mary (the main characters), who happen to have some of the most wonderfully witty lines that I've read for a while.
However, although I enjoy the characters, I find the plot to be a little meandering and it has a slightly confusing end in my opinion. There were several times when I had to go back and reread as section because I didn't quite catch what was going on. Several times also near the end things just seem to go a little too good for the characters, with Mary's mysterious instincts. I also didn't particularly like the end- it was a little abrupt and it made me a little sad.
Despite this, I consider it to be a good book and if I see more from this series, I will be getting them from the library.

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