Book Review: The Agency, Mary Quinn Mysteries
by Y.S. Lee
Usually I review each book individually, but in this case, I am reviewing four of them together. They fit together cohesively and so it seemed appropriate.
A Spy in the House
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.
The Body at the Tower
Now nearly a full-fledged member of the Agency, the all-female detective unit operating out of Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls, Mary Quinn is back for another action-packed adventure. Disguised as a poor apprentice builder and a boy, she must brave the grimy underbelly of Victorian London – as well as childhood fear, hunger, and constant want – to unmask the identity of a murderer. Assigned to monitor a building site on the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament, Mary earns the confidence of the work crew, inching ever nearer her suspect. But if an irresistible desire to help the city’s needy doesn’t distract her and jeopardize her cover, unexpectedly meeting up with an old friend – or flame – just might.
The Traitor and the Tunnel
Queen Victoria has a little problem: there’s a petty thief at work in Buckingham Palace. Charged with discretion, the Agency puts quickwitted Mary Quinn on the case, where she must pose as a domestic while fending off the attentions of a feckless Prince of Wales. But when the prince witnesses the murder of one of his friends in an opium den, the potential for scandal looms large. And Mary faces an even more unsettling possibility: the accused killer, a Chinese sailor imprisoned in the Tower of London, shares a name with her long-lost father. Meanwhile, engineer James Easton, Mary’s onetime paramour, is at work shoring up the sewers beneath the palace, where an unexpected tunnel seems to be very much in use. Can Mary and James trust each other (and put their simmering feelings aside) long enough to solve the mystery and protect the Royal Family? Hoist on your waders for Mary’s most personal case yet, where the stakes couldn’t be higher – and she has everything to lose.
Rivals in the City
Convicted fraudster Henry Thorold is dying in prison, and the Agency asks Mary to take on one last case: to watch for the return of his estranged wife. Mrs Thorold is an accomplished criminal and will surely want to settle scores with Mary’s fiancé, James. With the additional complications of family and conflicting loyalties, the stakes for all involved are higher than ever. (All summaries courtesy of goodreads)
Adult Point of View
I believe this series was written for young teens, though I wonder if they will appreciate the books.
I enjoyed the depiction of Victorian England, seeing both the glamorous side and unsavory. It’s particularly interesting to see the prejudice that developed to the Chinese immigrants. Overall it’s engaging, has a good pace and delightful characters. There were a few odd, stray comments that seemed out of place. I questioned the need to include that the gentleman, Henry Thorold, had a book with pornography in it. Later in the series there is a scene with passionate kissing between Mary and James that leaves them both panting leaving the reader wondering exactly how far things went. In the last book, James and Mary are working hard to maintain the propriety expected in their relationship publicly.
3.48 out of 5 stars
– the Mother
The Teen chose not to read these books. She rolled her eyes and said it sounded too young for her. 🙂 She is nearly 17, and as you know if you have a daughter in her teens, it appears that some tendon becomes loose at this age and the eyes often roll about. Friends of mine with girls in their 20’s say that this tendon reattaches at about 21 though sometimes it doesn’t reattach until they marry. Also, the same friends note, that even if the eyes roll about their ears still work. That is the end of my diatribe for tonight.