The Agency : A Spy in the House
In 1853 London, 12-year-old Mary Quinn is sentenced to hang for theft, when a teacher from Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls rescues her. Five years later, Mary, now a teacher at the school, finds out that the Academy is actually a front for the Agency, an organization of female spies, and she becomes their newest recruit. Her first assignment is to pose as a companion to Angelica, the spoiled daughter of a rich merchant named Thorold who is suspected of smuggling artifacts from India. While exploring Thorold’s office in search of evidence of his illegal activities, she encounters James Easton, a young engineer whose brother is about to propose marriage to Angelica and who is doing his own investigation of Thorold’s suspicious activities. Although hostile to each other at first, the two reluctantly join forces to pool their resources and slowly find that they enjoy each other’s company after all, in spite of Mary’s hot temper and James’s arrogance and belief in the traditional roles of women. As it turns out, everyone in the Thorold household has a secret to keep, and Mary has a secret of her own, which she keeps closely guarded even from her employers.
A Spy in the House is the first of what promises to be an exciting trilogy featuring an intrepid young heroine who is not without faults, but who rapidly endears herself to the reader. Lee, who has a Ph.D. in Victorian literature, clearly knows the period very well. The plot moves quickly, and the identity of the villain comes as something of a surprise. Enough loose ends are left so that the reader will be eager to read the second volume. I, for one, am looking forward to finding out what will happen to Mary next. Highly recommended for ages 12-up.