Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Agency: The Body at the Tower

The Agency: The Body at the Tower by Y. S. Lee is the second in a mystery series which follows Mary Quinn and The Agency, an all-female detective unit operating out of Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for girls. In this installment, Mary disguises herself as a poor apprentice builder and a boy to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of a bricklayer at a building site on the clock tower of the Housese of Parliament. Set in the gritty world of the Victorian working-class poor, this book gives the reader a peek into the underbelly of Victorian London. It takes Mary (as Mark) a while to earn the confidence of the work crew and her task is made more difficult when she unexpectedly meets up with an old friend who could give her away--unintentionally. Lee works the story for all its worth and brings it all to an exciting finish high up in the clock tower.

I found this story to be a fairly satisfying read all around. Lee has evidently done her research and the details of Victorian life ring true. This is the first Mary Quinn novel I've read (I'm having difficulty getting my hands on the first installement), but I didn't find myself at too much of a disadvantage stepping into Mary's story in mid-stream, so to speak. Lee gives enough background to bring first time readers up to speed, without being too heavy-handed with it. I don't think readers of the first novel will become bored with the background information. I thoroughly enjoyed the interactions between Mary and her old "friend" and I look forward to seeing how the relationship evolves in future books. I also hope to see more of Jenkins--the boy Mary befriends on the work site.

Decent historical mystery. It should be of interest to those who like YA, historical mysteries and a bit of romance, and the Victorian era in general. Three and a half stars.

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