Mary Quinn is headed for death when she is unexpectantly saved. Thinking she will need to atone for her sins she is surprised to be recruited for a very different purpose.
Title: A Spy in the House Alternative Title: The Agency: A Spy in the House
Series: Mary Quinn : 1
Author: Y.S. Lee
ISBN: 9780763652890 Language: English (some 官话 / Mandarin / Chinese reference & keywords)
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 love the characters and especially the banter between James and Mary. The relationship between these too really allows the reader to navigate through some more series scenes and themes of this book. With Mary beginning this journey about to be hanged she is a well-developed character that you really come in invest in heavily. Her lack of knowledge of her own history is fascinating as the author drops breadcrumbs to be followed.
James on the otherhand has a sarcastic nature that tends to break tensions and make your heart pound at the same time. With his own history to speak of and trying to keep his love-sick brother heading in the correct direction he clearly has a lot on his plate as well when he first comes across Mary.
The historical elements that are woven into this story flow really naturally. It isn’t a case of the author stopping in the story to give you a history lesson but rather the details flow naturally within the storyline. To me it was clear that the author has spent a good amount of time researching the place, setting, and history that serves as a backdrop to this novel.
Some may find some passages a little long-winded but not to the page-flicking extent. It really is a solid first book in the Mary Quinn series and I look forward to reading the next one to find out what happens next.