The Agency, Book 2
Pages: 337 pages
Finished: Sept. 9, 2010
First Published: Aug. 10, 2010
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: YA, historical mystery
A sobbing man huddles on a narrow ledge, clawing at his eyes to shield them for the horror far below.
Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher.
Reason for Reading: Next in the series.
I want to say The Body at the Tower is even better than book 1 but I think that's because I've just finished reading it. The follow up to A Spy in the House is just as amazingly brilliant as its predecessor. A fast-paced, read-into-the-night Victorian mystery.
Mary Quinn has been sent on assignment this time to go undercover as a young boy. Chopping her hair off and binding her chest tightly her petite half Chinese frame allows her to pull this off without a hitch. She is sent to the construction site of St. Stephen's Clock Tower which holds the bell, Big Ben. A construction worker has just been found dead at the bottom of the tower, having supposedly either fallen or jumped. Mary's assignment is to infiltrate the construction crew and pick up any insider information on the man's death and also to look into the state of affairs concerning the construction management itself.
Lee's depiction of Victorian times is authentic and never loses its credibility. As I've said previously, Ms. Lee has managed to pick the perfect profession for her heroine to move about within the confines of this rigid society. As a spy, her disguises allow her to cross class lines and present as a bold, outspoken woman in private. This time around disguised as a boy, there are no boundaries to "Mark's" world. As Mark, Mary has access to a construction site, pubs, the streets at night, and plenty of places a woman of any respectability, no matter how small, would never deem to go.
The mystery is an intricate plot with several different tracks being followed. People of bad character are easy to find but it doesn't necessarily make them the villains in these particular circumstances. Lee keeps the reader guessing by adding more to the plot with each reveal. Mary also has the added burden of running into James again and their relationship takes many turns.
The recommended age of these books are 12+ but I would suggest a little older as even though they are perfectly clean they speak of adult topics. This one mentions rape, prostitution, men who like little boys and other unsavory topics. Also since the protagonist is 18 years old I find no reason that this would not be enjoyed by adult readers of cozy historical mysteries. The publishers may even want to consider marketing "adult version" covers of the series. I'm anxiously awaiting book 3 but I am a tad worried that this is supposed to be a trilogy. I really hope Ms. Lee reconsiders and continues on with the adventures of Mary Quinn.