Title: A Spy in the House
Author: Y.S. Lee
Classification: Fiction based in the Victorian era
Themes: mystery, detective, history
What’s it about?
Mary is an street orphan who is caught and sentenced to hang. By design she is saved from the gallows and given the chance at a new life and identity. Taken in by a boarding school Mary learns to read, write and be a lady…and then she gets an offer she can’t refuse – to go undercover as a lady’s companion. Mary soon finds herself attempting to solve the mystery of the ships which keep sinking all the while trying to avoid James Easton who she continually comes up against.
From the first moment I read this book I was enthralled. This book sets a great pace without skimping on details. The characters are likeable and believable; it is fantastic to see a strong protagonist with a mixed heritage of Chinese and Irish. From a historical point of view the author has seamlessly woven in references to people and places without it feeling as if she is stopping to give you a history lesson.
This book does contain some adult themes in regards to her mother’s lifestyle (as a prostitute) and quite a bit of innuendo (but in good taste and light-hearted).
I have often wished I taught in secondary schools so that I could use this book as a novel study. It truly is one of the best novels that I have read in a while. I love the characters and especially the banter between James and Mary. The story is enjoyable and satisfactory. For this book – what’s not to love?