Rummanah Aasi
  If you like historical mysteries be sure to check out Y.S. Lee's Agency series. It's got a strong female lead along with interesting historical details of the Victorian period, mystery, and of course a little dash of romance. There are currently three books in the series with more on the way. I've enjoyed all of them. Today I'll be reviewing book two, The Body at the Tower, and book three, Traitor in the Tunnel, respectively.

Description (from the publisher): Mary's second adventure as an undercover agent forces her to relive some harrowing childhood experiences as she seeks the identity of a murderer. Mary Quinn is back, now a trusted member of the Agency, the all-female detective unit operating out of Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls. Her new assignment sends her into the grimy underbelly of Victorian London dressed as a poor boy, evoking her own childhood memories of fear, hunger, and constant want. As she insinuates herself into the confidence of several persons of interest, she encounters others in desperate situations and struggles to make a difference without exposing -or losing -her identity. Mary's adventure, which takes place on the building site of the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament, offers a fictional window into a fascinating historical time and place.

Review: After passing her first trial case, Mary Quinn begins her real assignment with The Agency, a secret all-female detective agency in Victorian London. Her latest case requires her of disguising as a male while quietly gathering information about issues impeding the progress on building the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament. The mysterious death of a workman seems to be the impetus of the delay; however, there have been rumors of widespread corruption. Once again Mary is forced to confront her less than stellar past as her disguise brings memories of her difficult childhood to the forefront. While tries to battle her own personal demons she is also trying to sort out an intricate web of theft that may have led to murder. Adding an additional layer of complication is the delectable James Easton, who caught Mary's eye during her first case. Mary and Jame's roads cross as James turns out to be the safety inspector for the building site. James has returned from India, weakened by a bout with malaria but still attracted to Mary. Like the first book in the series, Lee's attention to the lifestyle of Victorian England is impeccable. We are put in the shoes of poor workers who barely are making ends meet. Mary is a reflective and admirable character, who grapples many issues yet seems to keep her head straight. Though she routinely finds herself in hard places and doesn't make the right choices, you can't help but root for her.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and crude humor. There are scenes of beatings and punishments. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman, Enola Holmes mysteries by Nancy Springer, Secret Letters by Leah Scheier

Description (from the publisher): Mary Quinn is assigned to the Queen's case and sets out to identify a petty thief at work in Buckingham Palace and finds herself fending off the advances of a feckless prince, but a larger scandal looms when the prince witnesses the murder of a friend in an opium den.

Review: In the first two books of the Agency series, we've seen Mary take part of the upper middle class and the low, poor, working class. This time Mary finds herself at the upper crust, solving a mystery at the Buckingham Palace. Unlike the first two books, there is more of an emphasis on Mary's personal storyline. We get more details about her past including her mixed ethnicity. The mystery, which evolves from a simple case of thievery turns to a much more personable one as the Prince of Wales, heir to the throne, witnesses a murder at an opium den. The switch of the case was a bit abrupt. Lee flirts with the idea of racial tensions in this book, but I wished it was explored a bit more. It comes off kind of haphazardly. In this book Mary is forced to make some serious, life changing decisions which will put her comfort, trust, and heart at risk.
 I love the chemistry between Mary and James, which I think gets stronger with each book. Both characters complement each other really well and they both mutually admire, respect, and love one another. Though there is no cliffhanger per se in this book, there are many questions left wide open as to where Mary will head to next. Despite the minor flaws and the uneven pacing, I had a big smile on my face when I finished it and enjoyed it enough to recommend it to others.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Opium and alcohol use is mentioned. There is some language and a few, brief sexual suggestions mentioned. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman, Enola Holmes mysteries by Nancy Springer, Secret Letters by Leah Scheier, And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander, Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn.
6 Responses
  1. Rummanah, I've heard good things about this series so I really should check it out. The romance between Mary and James sounds well done and I like that Lee explores some different issues during the Victorian era.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Lovely reviews....:) Ive heard so many great things about this series....the next time Im in a mystery, history, spy type mood Ill have to check them out....

    PS- Smile...hope your day is going better!!

  3. Oh I've been wanting to read both of these. I have the first and it looks like I'll need the second one as well. Oh I may have to pick up that first one sooner than I thought!

  4. Candace Says:

    I'm glad to hear you liked these! I've picked up the first from the library but wasn't able to get it read in time. I just think they sound like something I would enjoy. Thanks for the review! I know now that I really need to fit them in!

  5. Ha! For some reason, the Opium and alcohol use warning made me snort. I'm weird that way.

    I'm not much of a fan of HF, but these do sound good. And more importantly, James seems like good BB material. LOL

  6. I own all the books in this series, but I just never got around to them. I hope I will soon, you make them sound like a lot of fun. I also love how you include similar titles. I own the Enola Holmes book 1 - I can't resist anything Holmes-related.
    Wonderful reviews. I should really make time for these soon.

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