Book Review: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

A Spy in the House
The Agency #1
Y.S. Lee
Introducing an exciting new series! Steeped in Victorian atmosphere and intrigue, this diverting mystery trails a feisty heroine as she takes on a precarious secret assignment.

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.
Nooooooooooo! You don't get to go away, James! Absolutely not. Not India.

Ahem, I seem to be out of the reading slump. That was me lamenting the parting of Mary and James in the end of A Spy in the House. 

I must admit that I was not really paying much attention to the case that Mary was supposed to be investigating. I was always raring to go to the parts where Mary and James were interacting. They had the best chemistry even though they were always at each other's throats. She, independent, headstrong and intelligent. He, arrogant, decisive and convinced of the natural superiority of men (which was quite the thinking in those days, no wonder women could do things behind the curtain because they would not be suspected *hint*hint*). Naturally, the sparks were quite obvious.


That aside, I loved that Mary was half-half and not even English. She was half-Chinese and half-Irish. I didn't even know that the Chinese sailors had relationships with women of the British Isles. Is this accurate? Hmmm, I have to research this - goes to show that my knowledge of UK history is restricted to the shenanigans of royalty and the lords and ladies of the ton.

Aside from the main case, there's also the mystery of Mary's heritage to contemplate. There must be something behind that. You don't just give tantalizing hints if you're not building something from it.

One thing I didn't like was the Angelica-Michael thing. They got married but it was not legal and binding because one of their witnesses, Mary, was only 17 years old. After being disowned by her mother, Angelica was further relieved that she was not shackled to marriage which fit in nicely with her new beyond-marriage-and-children outlook. 


I know that this thread of the story was an attempt to continue with the whole independent woman angle but the way Angelica treated Michael was not that different from what a man was perceived-in-that-time to do.

Well, that's that. I haven't discussed anything about the case. Well I did, that *hint*hint* part in the third paragraph. I just don't want to detract from you, who's yet to read this, from piecing together and finding out the solution to Mary's first case as a member of The Agency.
Ayanami Faerudo

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