2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Cat has read 0 books toward her goal of 100 books.

Past Reads

The Agency: The Body at the Tower

The Body at the Tower: The Agency #2
by Y. S. Lee

This is another colourful, action-packed Victorian detective novel about the exploits of agent Mary Quinn. At a young age, Mary Quinn is rescued from the gallows and taken to Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls. The school turns out to be a front for a private detective agency. At age 17, Mary takes on her first case (A Spy in the House). In this, the second book of the series, Mary Quinn sets out to uncover the truth behind a suspicious death at St. Stephen’s Tower, better known as the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament. The accident occurred after hours in a highly public part of town and despite the presence of night watchmen. Mary, disguised as Mark Quinn, becomes a builder’s assistant to find out the truth about the body at the tower. (

My favourite book blogger little sister, Erica from The Book Cellar was wonderful enough to pass me her copy of this ARC from BEA when I expressed my dismay over not having seen it myself. I was so happy since I had been sort of eager to read this series but I was waiting for the pb editions.

I have not read the first book in the series, but I can assure you when it hits the shelves in paperback (and I am able to afford books again) I will be buying it. I honestly loved Mary Quinn. She was smart and witty and didn’t act like a damsel in distress. She had a modern way of going about things and I liked that about her. She had no qualms cutting off her hair to pass as a young boy, she did not get all prissy when alcohol was around. She played the role of a young boy very well.

I would have liked to know more about The Agency itself, but I think that probably was established pretty well in the first book – another reason to pick it up and read it!

When I first saw the books in the store I exclaimed, “Oh, look! A Victorian Nancy Drew!” and I wasn’t far off, except the writing was much more complex than Nancy Drew was. I still loved the mystery solving and trying to figure out why that body fell from the tower!

I have one little qualm about the cover – in a world of white-washing I am happy that the girl on the cover isn’t white bread, but I didn’t actually realize she was supposed to have Asian heritage. The model on the cover looks more Latina or black to me. Maybe it’s just because I am so white I don’t see the right race portrayed, but she reminds me of Rosario Dawson (who apparently has a multi-ethnic heritage per IMDB, though none are Asian ;)). Also, I find the lighting of the face of Mary Quinn makes her look white upon first glance. It’s sort of like they wanted to avoid the white washing accusations but they didn’t want others to dismiss the book because the girl on the cover wasn’t white on first glance. I don’t know. I don’t tend to get involved in these debates, but something about this cover bugs me a little.

Another thing about the cover? I really want that dress. It’s pretty. ;)

One more thing about the cover – I love that the E in Agency is a key. That is so cool. I am completely smitten by simple things like that on covers. I know, simple things for simple minds. ;)

I shall certainly be reading more of this series and from Y. S. Lee Рwho, excitingly enough is Canadian! That made me so happy when I read the back blurb. I am always so proud and excited when I read a book and discover the author is Canadian or even lives in Canada. Go, Canadian Pride! I am hoping this means that she will have some local bookstore appearances and maybe even make it to the Montreal area. I shall keep an eye out for that!

The Agency

  1. A Spy in the House
  2. The Body at the Tower

4 comments to The Agency: The Body at the Tower

  • Victorian Nancy Drew? and I HAVEN’T read these? I really need to do so ASAP! It’s horrible, but I was turned off from this book because of the cover – but I will definitely be reading these ASAP:)

    • Cat

      I thought you had read the first one when you let me have this one! I should not have robbed you from such a fun read! Bad, me! If you send me a bunny I’ll send this one back to you. :mrgreen:

  • Hi Cat, and thanks for the lovely review! I just wanted to explain a bit about the cover model. Candlewick was very careful to choose a model whose heritage accurately reflects Mary’s. It’s true that she doesn’t look distinctly Asian, but this is something that comes up in book one – while Mary is unusual-looking in Victorian London, no one can “place” her. When I wrote that detail, I was thinking about the huge range of looks you see in mixed-race people, and the question of what we often assume people “should” look like.

    And while I don’t have plans to be in Montreal in the near future, I’d love to meet you when I do. :smile:

  • I loved the first book in this series, and I’m very much looking forward to reading this one. I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it – even though you hadn’t read the first one. That’s a glowing endorsement. :-)