07 July 2014

The Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee

Now nearly a full-fledged member of the Agency, the all-female detective unit operating out of Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls, Mary Quinn is back for another action-packed adventure. Disguised as a poor apprentice builder and a boy, she must brave the grimy underbelly of Victorian London - as well as childhood fear, hunger, and constant want - to unmask the identity of a murderer. Assigned to monitor a building site on the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament, Mary earns the confidence of the work crew, inching ever nearer her suspect. But if an irresistible desire to help the city's needy doesn't distract her and jeopardize her cover, unexpectedly meeting up with an old friend - or flame - just might.

A suspenseful and evocative window into a fascinating moment in history, The Body at the Tower is the much-anticipated second outing with a daring young detective.

This is the kind of series that makes me send hysterical tweets to my fellow fangirl Liz at Planet Print proclaiming something along the lines of, "What a state of depravity my life was in before this book!"  And then, "I just finished it.  And now I hate myself."  (Because I didn't slow down and savor it.)  In short, it is the series that immediately captured my interest and imagination and heart -- and hell, my soul for all its worth.  The Agency series, brilliantly continued in The Body at the Tower, features a stubborn but well-meaning main character, a compelling plot, a mind-numbingly frustrating romance, and an atmosphere that makes me wish I had been born a century or two earlier than I had been.

My opinion of Miss Mary Quinn is twofold.  On the one hand, I can't help but have a huge girl crush on her because she's the type of girl who will, because she thinks it's a good idea, go and cut off all her hair in order to look like a boy.  In Victorian England where Such Things Are Not Done.  She'll snap at somebody just as much as she'll express kindness, but not because she feels entitled to a smooth way in life or because of her pride, but because she has a clear sense of this is cool and this makes me look like a rhyme with witch.  She is a clear-headed fresh of breath air in today's rife-with-divas young adult fiction.

On the other side.  She has a beautiful piece of man flesh who would actually accept her boy's hair cut and all -- and well, I can't exactly go flouting the details of that circumstance because that's spoilery.  But good lord, this girl can frustrate me just as much as demand respect from me.  Emotions aside, the cold, editor-like part of me admires Y.S. Lee for crafting a character that can bring out so much enthusiasm from me.  Enthusiasm, whether positive or negative, is better than bland indifference.

As in the case of A Spy in the House I wasn't all that interested in the mystery, though it was easier for me to keep up with this one because I understood what was going on.  I admit I was mostly engaged in the interactions between the aforementioned man flesh (James Easton) and our feisty main character.  This series is undoubtedly a guilty pleasure all around because it engages my interest on so many different levels.

Except for the writing.  I'll admit that the writing isn't much of a shining point for me, but the thing about it is: it wasn't awful.  It's just not mind-blowingly brilliant in my mind.  This definitely has its advantages because it means that I can just go along with the story and not be distracted by the prose.

In summation, The Body at the Tower has only heightened my anticipation for the rest of the series.  I have got to have this series for my bookshelves because I'm experiencing the rare urge to reread my favorite bits.

“I’m so sorry. I don’t think the etiquette manuals cover this sort of situation.” He leaned in close, his lips all but grazing her neck, and inhaled. “Mmm. You smell good, too.”

She nearly choked. Took a step backwards, until her back met cold stone. “Th-thank you.”

“That’s better. May I kiss you?” His finger dipped into her shirt collar, stroking the tender nape of her neck.

“I d-don’t th-think that’s a good idea.”

“Why not? We’re alone.” His hands were at her waist.

Her lungs felt tight and much too small. “Wh-what if somebody comes in?”

He considered for a moment. “Well, I suppose they’ll think I fancy grubby little boys.”
Book Info
  • pages - hardcover, 337
  • published - August 2010
  • publisher - Candlewick
  • genre - historical fiction
  • received via - library :)
  • rating - 5/5
  • series - The Agency
    • A Spy in the House | Review
    • The Body at the Tower
    • The Traitor in the Tunnel
    • Rivals in the City