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The Body at the Tower April 29, 2013

The Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee

The Agency 2

Mary Quinn is back in this exciting sequel to A Spy in the House.  Now, a full-fledged member of The Agency, she is given her first official assignment.  She is to pose as an apprentice builder to investigate the suspicious death of a bricklayer at St. Stephen’s Tower- the unfinished Houses of Parliament.  Thankfully petite Mary is able to don the ragged garb, chop off her hair and pose as a young man.  As “Mark” she introduces us to the world of the working poor.  Mary’s assignment brings forth memories of her own difficult childhood on the streets of London, where she once dressed as a boy for her own safety.

Mary is thrust into this underbelly of squalor and depravity.  She attempts to aid Jenkins, another young worker on the job site while investigating the mysterious case.  If all that wasn’t difficult enough, Mary’s old sparring partner James Easton is again in the picture.  Back from India, a weakened James coincidentally enters Mary’s building site.  Will James keep her secret or blow her cover?  And more importantly, will their acquaintance lead to romance?

Lee again makes Victorian London a focus of this novel.  Through Mary the reader is able to view the horrors of poverty.  Reminiscent of Dickens, the back alleys and dark basements roil with filth and sadness . Class distinctions and gender roles pigeon-hole many of the characters.  Through her work for the Agency, Mary is able to transcend these. Identity is a major theme in this novel.  As Mary hides her femaleness by cutting her hair and binding her chest, she is also hiding deeper secrets.  Described as exotic, we learned that Mary is half Chinese in the first installment of The Agency.  Her real last name is Lang, but was changed to better assimilate into British society.   She has so far shunned this part of herself, shutting out memories of her past. While distancing herself from her Asian roots, Mary has also learned to use her heritage to her advantage. She easily treads the boundaries of class, race and gender.

I have already said I am a fan of this series. Victorian England, mysteries, and intriguing protagonist, Lee delivers another winner. Through the course of the first two novels, Mary has matured.  I am curious to see Mary as she grows in age, experience and confidence.  The third book in The Agency series, The Traitor and The Tunnel is next on my list.

 

A Spy in the House April 25, 2013

A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

agency

An orphan in Victorian London.  The possibilities are endless.  In Y.S. Lee’s debut novel, we meet Mary Quinn.  After being sentenced to hang, twelve-year-old Mary is whisked away by a prison guard, sparing her from the gallows.  Her savior is really Anne Treleaven, mistress of Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls.  Mary is welcomed and given an education befitting a proper lady.  Upon graduation, Anne reveals the school is really a front for The Agency, an all-female detective group. Now seventeen, Mary joins their ranks.

Her first assignment is to infiltrate the household of the Thorold family, rich merchants.  While posing as paid companion to the daughter Angela, Mary attempts to discover what happened to Thorold’s missing cargo ships.  While undercover she encounters James Easton, brother to Angela’s fiancé.  He is also snooping around, trying to find cause for his brother not to marry.  Mary discovers everyone has secrets.  She even has some of her own.

I am happy to say I have a new favorite series.  A lover of Victoriana and mysteries, The Agency is right up my alley.  Mary Quinn is a charming character; smart and spunky.  There is just the right amount of drama, mystery and romance to appeal to any reader.  Fans of period fiction will love Lee’s descriptions of 1850’s London, “Great Stink” and all.  I am pleased to announce the second and third books, The Body at the Tower and The Traitor in the Tunnel are already on the shelf and eagerly await reading.

 

The Twin’s Daughter April 22, 2013

Filed under: Books — Heather @ 5:40 pm
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The Twin’s Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

twins-daughter

Lucy Sexton opens the door to a bedraggled woman, a stranger.  But no, her face…it couldn’t be.  Is it her mother?  No, it’s her mother’s long-lost identical twin.  Separated at birth, Lucy’s mother was afforded all the comforts of an upper-middle class life while her twin has languished in the workhouse.  Aunt Helen is soon welcomed into the Sexton home and becomes part of the family.  Transforming from illiterate vagrant into refined lady, Helen is experiencing the life she could have had. Lucy grows close to her Aunt, closer than perhaps her own mother.

One day Lucy arrives home to a horrifying scene.  The two identical women are tied to chairs and one has been brutally murdered.  Who is dead?  Who has survived? All is not as it appears.  Doubts and questions begin to torment Lucy as she attempts to solve the mystery and find justice for the deceased.

I simply loved this book.  For me, it had it all!  A thrilling mystery, historically accurate, set in Victorian England, The Twin’s Daughter will leave you spinning from all the twists and turns.  Secrets, lies, twins, murder, corsets…what more could a girl want?

 

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson February 13, 2013

Filed under: Books — Heather @ 4:23 pm
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Name-of-the-Star

Fresh faced Rory Deveaux has arrived from Louisiana, eager to begin her senior year in London.  Adjusting to life in a foreign city is the least of her problems.  Rory’s British debut coincides with a series of brutal murders.  Rippermaina has gripped London as these copycat killings take place on the same dates and locations as Jack the Ripper’s infamous crimes 123 years earlier.  Rory soon finds herself in the midst of the investigations as the only possible witness to one of the crimes.

Filled with atmospheric detail, London comes alive as we share Rory’s experiences in the fog filled, cobbled streets.  Peppered with just the right amount of supernatural elements and a hint of romance, The Name of the Star is another win from Maureen Johnson.  I look forward to the next installment in the Shades of London series.