Lee, Y. S. A Spy in the House: The Agency. Candlewick Press 2016 335p $7.99 ISBN 978-0-7636-8748-9 hs/adult Historical fiction VG-BN
Mary is saved from the gallows by two women who run a ladies’ school in Victorian England for promising young girls of meager means. The school is a front for a spy academy that selects only a few girls who can do sleuthing without being “seen” because of their jobs as house servants. Mary is placed as a lady’s companion for the 18-year-old daughter of a prominent London family that runs a trading business between India and England. They also are in the business of stolen artifacts and gems. In her role as an investigator, Mary happens upon a young man who is also seeking “dirt” on the family because his brother is considering marriage into the family. With a cast of characters who all have ulterior motives, this novel is a quick read about sleuthing activities in the dead of night in unseemly parts of London, as well as adventures in the world of the wealthy in London. Wit and humor are sprinkled into this Victorian adventure featuring a feisty female sleuth, and it is a good introduction to Victorian adventure/romance for first-time readers. Mary’s mixed-race background becomes a thread that will follow her into other books in the series as she sharpens her sleuthing skills. A Spy in the House is well-researched historically, with vivid details of the stench of the Thames, the prejudices of the time and the chasm between wealth and poverty in Victorian England.
Summary: Mary, trained as a spy, seeks to figure out the illegal nature of the Thorold household’s business. She becomes a lady’s companion to the daughter in this story of intrigue, debutante balls, and a little romance set in Victorian England. Grades 8+
Victorian England-Fiction, Mystery-Fiction --Lois McNicol