Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Spy in the House

A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee
Candlewick Press, 2009
335 pages
YA; Historical; Mystery
4/5 stars
First in Agency Trilogy

Source: Library

Summary: Mary Quinn was rescued from the noose five years earlier and educated. Now she is about to embark on an unusual career for a lady, that of spy.  She is entering a smuggler's household as his daughter's paid companion in order to gain proof of his misdeeds.  That household is rife with secrets and it turns out so is Mary.

Thoughts: I had read many rave reviews of this so I was pleased to see it at my library and I grabbed it, hoping for a strong historical mystery.  I would not classify either of those aspects as very strong but I did discover some great banter.  Mary and James were so good together and I loved seeing how she could fire back a witty riposte.

The historical aspect was not as strong as I would have liked and I felt the dialogue in particular was not reflective of the time period, being far too modern.  Now that's not to say that I would want this novel written in the style of Dickens (one Dickens is plenty!) but I was disappointed in that.

I was also disappointed in the mystery because there were so many subplots that it ended up feeling supremely overstuffed and I was sometimes distracted from the many focus of the novel. I did not solve the mystery, of course, but I didn't really care because I didn't feel invested in it and because I just liked reading about Mary and James.

One of those subplots is Mary's family history.  Her mother was Irish and her father was Chinese, creating an unusual look in her.  She is able to pass as a white woman with Irish heritage which is good for her or she'd be in for a world of discrimination.  I believe her Chinese ancestry is something that will be explored more in later books.

Overall: Smart bantering and a bit of romance elevate this historical mystery.

Cover: It seems to fit in with Victorian but I don't think it's spectacular.  I love the fonts on the cover though-every single one!


  1. This sounds like a fun read! Interesting heroine, too. I like a good, strong heroine.

  2. I really liked A Spy in the House but there were things that weren't resolved. I read The Body at the Tower and I enjoyed it as well. I do think that the historical details took a back seat to the mystery and romance but the lead characters are great so I didn't mind.

    Fantastic review! I hope you will give The Body at the Tower a try too.

  3. I've not heard of this a good review, thanks. And, just popping by to let you know you WON over at Class of 2k11's blog. Congrats!

  4. I'm looking forward to reading this series. I'm a little disappointed to hear the mystery and historical parts aren't as good as they could be, but you've piqued my interest with your description of the characters' banter.


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