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A Spy in the House (The Agency Series #1)

A Spy in the House (The Agency Series #1)

4.3 55
by Y. S. Lee

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Introducing an exciting new series! Steeped in Victorian atmosphere and intrigue, this diverting mystery trails a feisty heroine as she takes on a precarious secret assignment. 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


Introducing an exciting new series! Steeped in Victorian atmosphere and intrigue, this diverting mystery trails a feisty heroine as she takes on a precarious secret assignment. 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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in the richly described underbelly of Victorian London, Lee's debut novel launching the Agency trilogy introduces feisty Mary Quinn. At the 11th hour, 12-year-old Mary is rescued from hanging (for thievery) and taken to Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls, a school doubling as a secret training ground for female private detectives. When Mary turns 17, she is selected for a case requiring her to spy on a wealthy merchant by serving as a companion to his spoiled, petulant daughter, Angelica Thorold. Mr. Thorold is suspected of pirating valuable artifacts from India, and it turns out that James Easton, the younger brother of one of Angelica's suitors, is on Thorold's trail as well. Through the many and somewhat contrived plot twists, Mary's skills are tested; she prevails with Easton's help and attentions, partly belying the story's feminist tenor. A subplot revolves around a family secret Mary tries to keep buried. If cultural issues at times feel like they are being addressed with a modern sensibility, Mary's lively escapades, on the whole, will hold readers' attention and whet their interest for the next installment. Ages 12–up. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
Mary Quinn, a young woman alone in Victorian London, is about to hang for thievery when she is whisked away and offered a new life in a women's academy. Eventually she learns the academy is a front for an all-female detective agency. Mary's first assignment takes her to the home of a wealthy merchant, where she is to gather evidence of wrongdoing while posing as a companion for his daughter. It is soon apparent that his household has more than its share of secrets. Mary finds herself forced to partner with James, the brother of her young charge's suitor, who has suspicions about the family. The first in a series, this volume sets up its premise in an unobtrusive manner. There is interesting chemistry between Mary and James as well as hints that they may reunite in a future volume. The descriptions of a crowded, smelly and unsanitary city are both well-drawn and important plot elements, as are the mores of Victorian life. Most intriguing is the unusual ethnic heritage Mary strives to conceal, which adds a fresh dimension. (Historical mystery. 12 & up)
VOYA - Lona Trulove
Victorian London was a harsh place to live, especially for a twelve-year-old orphan. Unfortunately, stealing was a way of life for these young children and it was no different for Mary Lang, the main character of this thrilling mystery. "For the crime of housebreaking, Mary Lang you are hereby sentenced to hang by the neck until you are dead. May God have mercy on your soul." These are the words of the judge sentencing Mary as the story begins. Mary's life changes forever at that moment. She is whisked away by the wardress and secretly given to Anne Treleavan, head teacher of Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls. Mary receives a good education and, at seventeen, gets recruited to The Agency (an investigative unit) as a spy. Her first assignment puts her in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Thorold as a lady companion to their child Angelica who is anything but angelic. The assignment is to gather information about Mr. Thorold's merchant business and missing cargo ships. Unfortunately, the house is full of deception and danger. Filled with action, suspense and romance, this is a fun read. The historical information about The Great Stink of London, the use of Chinese people as sailors during this time period and the Victorian setting itself make this rich with research ideas and discussion for any book club or classroom. The intelligent, strong female character makes this an especially good book for young girls. Reviewer: Lona Trulove
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Mary Quinn, a scrappy 12-year-old orphan and accomplished thief in Victorian London, is saved from the gallows by a stranger and taken to Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls, an institution dedicated to turning out strong, independent, educated young women. Though reluctant at first, she accepts the challenge and eventually becomes a teacher herself. At 17, she is recruited by the mistresses of the school to join a covert group of female spies known as The Agency. Her first assignment involves posing as a lady's companion to the daughter of a man suspected of fraud and smuggling. She carries out her investigation at night and during stolen moments, but soon finds that she is not the only one on the case. Is James Easton a friend or foe? A dramatic rescue from a burning building reveals the true villain but leaves other questions unanswered. Lee fills the story with classic elements of Victorian mystery and melodrama. Class differences, love gone awry, racial discrimination, London's growing pains in the 1850s, and the status of women in society are all addressed. Historical details are woven seamlessly into the plot, and descriptive writing allows readers to be part of each scene. Readers who liked Phillip Pullman's The Ruby in the Smoke (Knopf, 2008) will find similar elements in this new series starter.—Cheri Dobbs, Detroit Country Day Middle School, Beverly Hills, MI

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Y. S. Lee's Agency Series , #1
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Sales rank:
HL680L (what's this?)
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
12 - 15 Years

Meet the Author

Y. S. Lee has a PhD in Victorian literature and culture and says her research inspired her to write A SPY IN THE HOUSE, "a totally unrealistic, completely fictitious antidote to the fate that would otherwise swallow a girl like Mary Quinn." Y. S. Lee lives in Ontario, Canada.

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A Spy in the House (The Agency Series #1) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 55 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was amazing book that suprises and keeps you in supsense. I loved it and would recommend to ages 12 and older.
Ranousha More than 1 year ago
What I loved: The story was unique and thrilling. The writing style was great! The characters are interesting and not boring at all. Even the maids had a place in this story. The suspense amazing. It was interesting and fun to see the Victorian era in general and in London specifically. The few last chapters were breath taking. I had to stop myself from sneaking on the next page. I wasn&rsquo;t 100% successful >_<&rdquo;. It was set in London! What&rsquo;s not to like?! What I disliked I would be crazy if I hated one thing about this book. Conclusion: If you&rsquo;re looking for a wonderful YA thriller and mystery, this is your book. You won&rsquo;t regret it at all even if you don&rsquo;t enjoy stories set in the Victorian era. I should thank Y. S. Lee for writing such great books, I&rsquo;m definitely a big fan of yours Open-mouthed smile.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the Mary Quinn/Lang book and i enjoyed James as well. A wonderful read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!(:
acornucopiaoflove More than 1 year ago
In A Spy in the House, Lee tells a story filled with mystery, intrigue, and romance. Mary, a girl who was saved from a death sentence, has been educated at Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls. At the school she's given the education of a wealthy girl, and is encouraged to work in a field she enjoys. The idea of a school that educated girls regardless of their social class, or connections, was an aspect I enjoyed. Not only that, but the school existed to give the women some independence. In a time when the role of women was primarily in the home, it was refreshing to read about a group of women who acknowledged that they deserved more options than being a wife/mistress/governess. It also made me appreciate the educational opportunities that I've been given. The writing was another big part of why I enjoyed this book. In my opinion, a good mystery needs an interesting setting, strong characters, and should make you question the motives of those characters. A Spy in the House contained all of these characteristics, and more. The description of Victorian London, made me feel as though I was there, stuck in warm weather made worse by the smell of the polluted Thames. Throughout the book, I also questioned the motives of each character. Each time a new piece of information was discovered by Mary, I attempted to figure out how the story would end. Of course, I was completely wrong. I really enjoyed reading about Mary. In the early chapters of the book, the reader finds out why Mary was sentenced to death by hanging. We also see how Mary's education has helped her to grow, and become stronger, and more sure of herself. I particularly liked that she was looking for a work that she found fulfilling. She had attempted many of the jobs that were acceptable for women, but she wanted something more from her work. It takes a lot of courage to go from a job that you know, to something that's completely foreign. Mary was also kind to her young maid, Cass. This was a characteristic that was uncommon in the wealthy women in the book. Cass reminded me a lot of Mary at the start of the book. Cass was a bit unsure of herself, and given the right opportunities, had the potential to be very clever, much like Mary had been. There were a few times when I thought that the plot could have moved a bit faster, but aside from that I really enjoyed this book. It's another great 2010 debut, and I look forward to the sequel, The Body at the Tower, which is being released this August.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Mary Quinn used to be a thief. In fact, she was rescued from certain death by hanging and brought secretly to a special school for girls. Here, she worked hard to change her station in life. Now, she's a young lady without a job and doesn't know where to turn next. Fortunately, her advisers at the school let her in on a secret. They have a spy agency where she'd be a perfect fit. They help out Scotland Yard and gather information. With her former skills, Mary would be perfect for the agency. Plus, they have a position in mind for her, after she undergoes training. Mary emerges and makes her way as a paid ladies companion to Angelica Thorold, a spoiled girl. Mary's duty, besides her job, will be to gather any intelligence on Angelica's father and his business in regards to smuggling items. Miss Thorold doesn't take to Mary. The two of them attempt to work out their differences in a variety of ways while Mary snoops about the house. When she finds nothing, she goes investigating at Mr. Thorold's business when she's caught, not by security, but by a man with similar concerns. He offers up a partnership where they share information each uncovers. Mary reluctantly agrees, but with time running out, will she risk too much and find her identity discovered? I read this mostly in one sitting and then wanted the next book immediately. I love both spy novels and the Victorian England era, and combining the two equals pure magical entertainment. A great feisty heroine, lots of danger, plenty of mysteries to untangle, and a little romance creates a wonderfully perfect first edition to a new series.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
Mary Quinn is twelve-years-old when she is arrested for theft and sentenced to hang in London in 1853. Rescued from the gallows, Mary receives an extraordinary offer of an education and proper upbringing at Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls. Hidden behind the cover of a finishing school, The Agency works as an all-female investigative unit. Five years later, with her training nearly complete, Mary is offered her first assignment working undercover as a lady's companion. Stationed in a rich merchant's home, Mary is tasked with helping along the investigation into missing cargo ships. As Mary delves deeper into her investigation she soon discovers that everyone in the household is hiding something in A Spy in the House (2010) by Y. S. Lee. A Spy in the House is Lee's first novel. It is also the start of The Agency series (and consequently sometimes referred to as The Agency--by me at least). Lee presents a well-researched, thoroughly engrossing mystery here. A Spy in the House evokes the gritty and glamorous parts of 1850s London with pitch-perfect descriptions. The dialog also feels true to the period with no jarring, obviously modern, turns of phrase. The story is filled with twists and also some very smart observations about race, feminism and what being a woman with agency might have looked like in 1850s London. Although the ending is a bit rushed there is still an ideal balance between closure and hints of what to expect in future installments. The resolution is quite surprising in a way that is especially satisfying for a Victorian mystery. Mary is a capable, pragmatic heroine who is as smart as she is endearing. With just a hint of romantic flirtation that is realistic and witty (and decidedly lacking in instant love), A Spy in the House ¿is a delightful story with scads of appeal. Possible Pairings: I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter, The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: Flight of the Phoenix by R. L. LaFevers with illustrations by Kelly Murphy, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Paranormalcy by Kiersten White, Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevemer
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This seems to be the author's first novel, and it's a good start. The concept is unusual -- a detective agency staffed by women who go unnoticed in Victorian society, such as governesses and paid companions. I found the characters and situations believable, and the villain came as a surprise. (Although I don't try too hard to guess the villain. I like to just watch events unfold.) I liked the detective and sympathized with her uncertanties on her first case. I've already bought the next book in the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
mcmullin More than 1 year ago
A great trilogy. Please continue with The Agency books. Y.S. Lee is one of the best writers I have read in years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
rosiejrJS More than 1 year ago
Very good reading. Enjoyed it. A++
Kelly-44 More than 1 year ago
I thought it was well written and captured me from the beginning and held my interest. Will be reading more of this series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have just recently started reading mystery books and find them most enjoyable. Held my interest and was difficult to put the book down even when necessary. Put on your "Must Read List".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed Mary's story and look forward to reading more of her work as a spy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fabulous! More please!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CiCaMo More than 1 year ago
The whole premise of The Agency in Victorian England is most interesting and foreward thinking. Y.S. Lee has done a great job of creating Mary Quinn as a very likeable and interesting character. Even though this was a relatively short book, I liked it so well, I had to get The Agency Series #2 and I'm sure I'll get The Agency Series #3. If you like good strong female types, mysteries and Victorian England, I think you'll really enjoy this series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the very best mystery books i have ever read!!!! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Author Y. S. Lee presents an intriguing idea in her series of mystery novels called *The Agency*. The essential gist is that of a specialized private agency that employs women as spies in mid-nineteenth century England. The rationale for the characters is that the heads of the group believe in two truths: that women should have more opportunities than just wife, governess, or poverty; and that women are never taken seriously. This two-fold belief leads to the ability to hire out the services of this mysterious group's female agents because no one will bat an eyelash at saying things in front of women that they will say in front of men. Is this sexist? Yes. Is it realistic for the time as well? Also yes. The first book, *A Spy in the House* follows a young beginner agent named Mary Quinn. Miss Quinn has escaped a very harsh and tragic life on the streets (and gallows) when the Agency took her in as a student and later teacher. Upon finding out the truth of what the school does, Mary jumps at the opportunity presented to her to become an agent. As she is untested, and a novice agent, her first mission is a simple one: she is to observe what occurs around a family that a senior agent is investigating, and report back any suspicious activities she observes. It is a training mission, really. Nothing more. However, a convergence of factors, including her pride and a new possible ally, lead her to a far more involved role than she, or her superiors at the Agency, were prepared for. I really enjoyed this novel for a few reasons. One is that it isn't steampunk, but still dealt with some neat themes. Please do no not misunderstand. I am starting to love steampunk as a genre, but so often the cool stories with strong women characters, chivalrous men, and compelling interpersonal plot lines taking place in the past are steampunk. That this author did so in a very realistic portrayal of 19th century England, is terrific. I also appreciated that this wasn't some screed against men, and didn't excuse bad women simply because they were mistreated. It is a work that has both good and bad men and women as characters, and treats them thusly. When a character does something particularly selfish, it isn't just passed off as her being a &ldquo;strong woman not submitting to a man&rdquo;, but seen for what it is, bad behavior. The research the author put in was obvious, and only served to strengthen the work. In fact, the only real criticism I have is that is still don't understand why the one bad guy didn't put a stop to the other bad guy's plans. Yes, there were legal issues, but nothing that should have made the one just endure it so pathetically. But, in a way, the one bad guy *not* being QUITE as ruthless works to the book's theme. And that's all I'll say about that. Also, the ending was a tad rushed. I really would like some more wrap-up than what this book gave us. Other than the above, the work was terrific, very meticulously researched, and well-worth a read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago