A Spy in the House: A Mary Quinn Mystery (The Agency #1) (*****)
by Y.S. Lee
She spun about. "What is it?"
"Stay out of wardrobes!"
This book opens with Mary Lang on trial for theft. It's the mid-1800's England, and despite her young age and fairly minor crime, Mary is sentenced to hang. Instead of meeting that fate, though, she is rescued by a woman who runs a school for girls. This school provides an education for girls who wouldn't receive it otherwise, girls with no money and no hopes for a good future. They teach the girls skills that they'll need to provide for themselves in a world that treats women like property. Mary accepts this woman's offer to attend the school, and we jump several years into the future where she's now 17, has changed her last name to Quinn, and teaches at the school. However, she doesn't feel fulfilled by this role, she wants more, and the woman who saved her has a new offer. And this is where our story really begins.
Mary becomes a spy for The Agency, a sort of private-detective, under-cover operation run by women and employing women. Mary is hired as a lady's companion in the house of a suspected smuggler. She is supposed to keep an eye on things and make herself available to the real agent who has already been installed in the household, but of course, Mary can't keep from investigating. In the process, she meets a young man who's also investigating the family, and they decide to work together.
A Spy in the House is a great title for anyone (ok, any young woman - this isn't really a "guy book") who is looking for a historical mystery. I recently had a teen ask me that very question - this title would have been a perfect fit. However, we didn't have it in our collection; I borrowed this from my local library system to test it out and see if my library should get it. I'm seriously considering it - it was an interesting look at the time period and it had a good mystery, one I didn't figure out until the end, and meets a need in the collection.
I really enjoyed this book; it was a great palate cleanser for the heart-break of The Hunger Games, and I sped through it. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series: The Body at the Tower.