18 novembro 2011

Review: A Spy in the House (Y.S. Lee)

A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee
Publisher:  Candlewick Press (2011)
Format: Paperback | 352 pages
Genre(s): Young Adult, Mystery / Thriller, Historical Fiction
Description (GR): "Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction in fine manners — and an unusual vocation. Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls is a cover for an all-female investigative unit called The Agency, and at seventeen, Mary is about to put her training to the test. Assuming the guise of a lady’s companion, she must infiltrate a rich merchant’s home in hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the household is full of dangerous deceptions, and there is no one to trust — or is there? Packed with action and suspense, banter and romance, and evoking the gritty backstreets of Victorian London, this breezy mystery debuts a daring young detective who lives by her wits while uncovering secrets — including those of her own past."
"A Spy in the House" is the first book in a new series featuring Mary Quinn, a Victorian heroine.

It is 1858 and Mary Quinn (formerly a street urchin) is drafted into "The Agency", a mysterious organization where all the agents are (apparently) women. The supposition that women are easily ignored because they are considered beings of inferior understanding is what drives this Agency. According to the leaders, women make the better spies.

So, Mary is sent on her first mission: to be a paid companion to the daughter of a rich merchant who seems to be smuggling jewels. She is to keep her ears open and report back. Seems like a fairly simple mission... except that Mary isn't happy with just sitting back and listening; and there is James Easton, a handsome engineer who is also investigating her charges.

At first glance, "A Spy in the House" looks like a fun mystery with lively characters, plenty of suspense and some romance. It is an entertaining read, sure. But there are too many inconsistencies with the plot construction and world building.

While I recognize Mary is not your typical female (she is an agent after all) I still didn't understand James' reactions to her behavior. He seems to take the fact that she's a sleuth and dresses like a boy more or less in stride. It's something that you see a lot in historical romances, but there it has a purpose. In a YA book that is first and foremost a historical mystery I really don't think it worked. I mean, Mary might be ahead of her time but she still has to conform to the norms of Victorian society. That didn't happen... there were a few occasions when her reputation would have been severely compromised. It kind of bothered me because if she was trying to prove that women are better spies then the best thing to do was to behave as a model of Victorian female perfection... which she didn't.

Another problem I had with the book: Mary and James didn't seem all that smart. She agrees to enter "a partnership" with a virtual stranger (James) because he told her he was investigating the Thorolds (the family she was meant to watch); he believed her story about investigating the disappearance of a maid, yet wasn't suspicious even once when she seemed more interested in the Thorold's financial records.

Also, the chemistry between James and Mary? Not good.

Overall: "A Spy in the House" was an interesting debut, with a compelling mystery, yes, but still rather lackluster. The mystery, the characters' behavior and the world building were implausible really. While I liked the book in general I felt there were many flaws in the portrayal of Victorian life, beliefs and behavior.

4 comentários:

jen7waters disse...

Oh não (º_º)

slayra disse...

Sorry, sorry eu sei que gostas muito desta série! E eu também gostei do livro até já encomendei os próximos para ver o que daqui sai. ^__~

Joana Neto Lima disse...

Agora ainda me fizeste ficar mais curiosa quanto ao livrinho. Já estava na wishlist, mas agora sobe uns lugarzinhos valentes!! :D

jen7waters disse...

*still in shock*


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