A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee

48552426Lynn: As a teen (a loooong time ago) I balanced my sf/fantasy reading with big doses of romantic mysteries by authors like Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt. As a librarian, I struggled to find books to meet that same interest for the girls in my 8th-9th grade building. This new series, The Agency, promises to be just what the doctor/librarian ordered!

The prologue of A Spy in the House (Candlewick 2010) introduces twelve-year-old Mary Quinn who is about to be hung for theft. Rescued at the last minute, Mary is offered the chance to attend Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Young Girls, a charitable school that offers an opportunity for an independent future. Five years later, Mary learns that the school does much more than educate young girls. It is a cover for a top secret investigative agency and she is offered a job with this elite group. Mary’s first assignment is to infiltrate the home of a rich merchant as a companion for his spoiled daughter. Cargo ships are mysteriously going missing and Mary’s real task is to watch and listen for information and clues. Of course feisty intelligent Mary cannot simply observe – she begins an active investigation. It is the spring of 1858 and a heat wave grips London, saturating the air with nauseating odors from the polluted Thames. Mary has only a short time to learn the truth and it becomes quickly obvious that every member of the household has dangerous secrets. A handsome and infuriating young man is conducting his own investigation and he and Mary become reluctant allies. The investigation leads to surprising clues about Mary’s past and there are tantalizing hints at revelations to come as well as a potential romance.

Recently there have been some very welcome mystery series written for middle school girls but there are very few written for older teens. I can’t wait to hand this to our book club girls and get their reaction but I think they are going to love it. The Victorian setting is terrific! The stifling culture – nicely mirrored in the climate’s noxious fumes – and the sights, sounds and smells of the city are especially vivid. The characters are intriguing and the sparks between Mary and James add to the fun. Lee has dangled a lot of enticing threads for exploring in books to come and I think our teens are going to be demanding the next one right away. More more!

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

3 Comments on "A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee"

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  1. scopenotes@gmail.com' Scope Notes says:

    Man, you guys are on a reviewing roll! Thanks for highlighting another nice-looking title.

  2. I LOVED this one! It was a great mystery series and the teens I’ve passed it on to have loved it. Now we’re all eagerly awaiting the sequel!

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