A Spy in the House
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.
I was disappointed in this book. Though there was nothing explicit, there were certainly allusions to the worst part of the underbelly of London- thievery, prostitution, murder- you name it. However, this was only the least of what bothered me about the book. First of all, there was inappropriate language scattered throughout- not to the extent of Scarlet, but still enough where that alone would deter me from recommending it. That aside, the conclusion to the mystery was just...completely melodramatic and rather unbelievable, even given the rather far-fetched (if exciting and entertaining) premise of the story. Also, I didn't have really any emotional attachment to the characters. They didn't seem to have any really strong moral compass or strict integrity that had me rooting for them. Also, the whole feministic aspect here was a little too strong: evidently, according to this book, no woman in England was ever happy due to the restrictions placed upon her gender. And the conclusion to Angelica's story was maddening on a number of levels.
The good points? Well, there were some. It had a Charles Dickens feel in places, which was nice. And I was curious and intrigued by Mary's whole heritage/past secret. I did try reading the second book in this series, but ended up just skimming it- the objectionable content was still there, and it wasn't even as interesting a mystery as this book. In my opinion, this book -and series- is entirely skippable.