A Spy in the House – Y. S. Lee

Lee, Y. S. (2016). A spy in the house. St. Ives, Great Britain: ISBN13: 9780763640675. Paperback. $6.39.

Annotation: It’s the nineteenth century and women, like Mary Quinn are underestimated all of the time. When Mary takes a job as a maid in an upper class household she’s really trying to find who has been selling drugs on the black market.

It’s 1850 in London, England and Mary Quinn is a spy for the crown. Before she started working for The Agency, Mary was an orphan and a thief. Saved from the gallows for her crimes, Mary goes to Miss Scrimshaws Academy for Girls, where she learns to be a spy. After all, who would ever suspect a young servant woman as a spy in their house? No one would, especially in high society London in the nineteenth century. When she takes a position in the Thorhold household as a Lady’s companion, she starts her investigation into Mr. Thorhold’s suspicious shipping company. She meets James Easton, a man who always feels like Mary is more than she claims. In the end, Mary discovers more about her heritage, cracks the mystery, and figures out that no one is ever who they seem.

A historical mystery set in London, A spy in the house, is a part of a four book series (so far) called The Agency. I enjoyed how much the story balances, from gender equality, race in London society, slavery, and class position. Although there are some fun liberties taken, like an all girls spy school, there is also commentary on how Mary is seen or not seen by people because of who she is, how she looks, and how she acts. I also enjoyed that it was a mystery along with a historical fiction story. There’s even a little love story in there and some great British banter. Mary is realistic in her opinions, and it’s refreshing to me to see a fictional perspective of young biracial woman in London society. I would suggest teens buy this book since it is only $6, but it can be hard to find in store, so the library would be a great resource for students who cant find it or the other books in the series. I think teens in junior or senior year would like it more, because the historical vocabulary and jokes might make more sense then.

Awards: Agatha Award Nominee for Best Childrens Young Adult (2010), John Spray Mystery Award (2011), OLA Forest of Reading Red Maple Award Nominee for Best Fiction (2011).

Did you know that women played a large role as spies in the 19th century and even earlier in history. Here is a podcast called “Stuff You Missed in History.”http://www.howstuffworks.com/embed/894762

There are also lots of pin boards about the nineteenth century and women. Check out the fashion!

You can check out Y.S. Lee’s blog, which she regularly updates. Here is an awesome Fan trailer for A spy in the house:


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Filed under Historical, Realistic Teen Fiction

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