author: y.s. lee

Mary, I love you. No, no–hear me out. I am madly, ridiculously, passionately in love with you. I don’t care about your past. Your race does nothing to change my feelings. I love you, you stubborn little fool. Is that clear enough for you?

Mary stared at Felicity for a long moment, willing that name unsaid. Her cheeks, forehead, even the tips of her ears, were scorching hot, which meant that she was blushing furiously. Her heart kicked wildly against her rib cage. Her throat seemed too small. It was preposterous. A prank. Utterly ridiculous, to think that in a city of a million souls, she should keep crossing paths with this one man. She’d never believe it in fiction.
Nerding Out on Books: The Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee

Mary Quinn is nearing the end of her year-long training with the Agency and is given an irregular assignment: disguise herself as a young boy and observe the goings on at the construction site for St. Stephen’s Tower to determine who might be responsible for the death of a bricklayer. The disguise is the easy part for Mary but navigating the alien world of construction workers and memories of her own childhood that the case brings up is far more difficult. Things get even dicier when someone from her past suddenly returns bringing the threat of discovery of her real identity into a harsh reality.

The second novel in The Agency trilogy, this book was just as enjoyable as the first and I devoured it in nearly a single sitting. Mary is continues to be a fascinating character to explore and her sleuthing is good fun to follow. The Victorian era continues to be well-drawn and Lee provides excellent detail in describing the construction of St. Stephen’s Tower (now Elizabeth Tower, home to dear old Big Ben) and the area around it. A continuation of the series that will thoroughly satisfy fans of the first book.


TITLE: The Agency Series #1-4


GENRE: Young Adult, Spy Thriller, Espionage 

RATING: ★★★★★

QUOTES: “It’s terrifying to be on the verge of finally getting what you want.” 

SUMMARY: (1st book)

Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is more than surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction in fine manners and a most unusual vocation. Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls is in fact 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 work against time as she infiltrates a rich merchant’s home in hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But it soon becomes clear that the Thorold 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. First in a riveting detective trilogy!


A half-asian spy living in Victorian London? YES PLEASE! I mean, come on! How fucking cool is that summary? I was seduced the first few sentences in.

Mary Quinn is our protagonist for this series. She is a half-chinese half-irish spy living in Victorian London. She goes about her investigative work while trying desperately to keep her race and past a secret. And being Asian, it ticked me off how desperately she was trying to hide her chinese blood but then I remembered this was a time where racial issues were at an extreme unrest so I became more understanding towards her. I’d probably do the same if it meant my survival.

The stories and plot twists were absolutely amazing! Lee’s writing keeps you on your toes and she’s very good with revealing bits and pieces of information you’d initially have a hard time putting together but then you see how it all comes together in the end and it’s just absolutely beautiful. I am a huge fan of hers and would definitely be reading most if not all of her future books. 

Aside from the amazing writing, one of the things I really liked about this book was Mary and James’ relationship. They aren’t the typical cheesy romantics where they fall in love at first sight and make stupid ass decisions based on their obsession for each other, as most YA books are now. They are just the perfect couple and the relationship I aspire to someday have with someone. James is the most understanding and patient guy I’ve ever read about. He doesn’t try to protect the girl because he knows and accepts that Mary is more than capable of taking care of herself. He doesn’t ask or demand for her to change. He just loves her as is. Let’s admit it, that quality is rare in the fictional world and more so in the real world. Their banters are hilarious as well. James is such a smooth motherfucker to be honest. 

I definitely recommend this series especially to those who like the Victorian London setting. You won’t regret it!

Favorite Moments in Traitor in the Tunnel by Y.S. Lee
  • Traitor in the Tunnel by Y.S. Lee
  • Pg. 62
  • James: Mary, aren’t we rather beyond small talk?
  • Mary: You’re right.
  • James: Not to mention you’re rather bad at it.
  • Mary: Only with you.
  • ...
  • Pg. 172-173
  • James: Typical.
  • Mary: Typical what?
  • James: Typical soft-hearted, romanticizing, nurturing female. He’s not worth your time or your heart, Mary. He’s an inbred, over indulged, undisciplined excuse for a man. But I suppose my saying so will only make you pity him the more.
  • Mary: First of all, I’m neither romantic not nurturing; you should know that, above all other. And second, you’ve completely misread my--my position and my attitude towards the Prince of Wales.
  • James: I have?
  • Mary: Of course you have! As though it’s remotely appropriate or likely that I’d feel that way! Do you think I’m attracted to intellectual mediocrity or self-indulged, or drunkenness? And why are we even having such a pointless spat?
  • James: Well, we often do…
  • Mary: You are a deeply infuriating person.
  • James: I think I’ve said this before, but…pot and kettle.
  • Mary: Stop shinning your lantern in my face.
  • James: It’s such a lovely face.
  • Mary: That’s enough nonsense.
  • ....
  • Pg 305
  • James: Come in.
  • Mary: I can’t stay long…
  • James: Coward. You’ll run trough explosive-filled sewers and stare down the Queen of England, but you’re too frightened to call on me.
  • Mary: That’s different. Etiquette, and all that.
  • James: (laughs) Come on, then. Upstairs.
  • Mary: (panics) What?
  • James: The drawing room, of course. We’ve a great deal to discuss.
  • Mary: (relieved) Oh. Yes. Of course.
  • James: Although we could start elsewhere.
  • Mary: (blushes) The drawing room is perfectly adequate, thank you.
  • ....
  • Pg 361
  • James: Mary, I love you. No, no--hear me out. I am madly, ridiculously, passionately in love with you. I don’t care about your past. Your race does nothing to chance my feelings. I love you, you stubborn little fool. Is that clear enough for you?
  • ....
  • Pg 365-366
  • James: I suppose I thought we’d have a madly impractical, terrifyingly, modern sort of marriage. One based on love. Not the mention of dangerous undertakings and hair’s-breadth escapes from burning buildings, high ledges, and exploding sewers.
  • Mary: And bickering.
  • James: Always that, yes.
  • Mary: Assuming I want to marry you at all.
  • James: True: I know of no good way of forcing you to do anything.
  • Mary: And you’re mad enough to think it could work--one day?
  • James: I think it would be heaven.
  • Mary: You have a very strange idea of heaven.
  • James: Kiss me and see.
  • (They kiss)
  • Mary: James.
  • James: There’s more to discuss?
  • Mary: I love you.
  • James: You’re a cruel woman, forcing me to wait so long to hear it.
  • Mary: I started saying it in the sewers.
  • James: That’s what I hoped.
  • Mary: I was afraid.
  • James: I know.
  • Mary: Arrogance.
  • James: Yet, somehow you find that attractive.

“In Mary Quinn’s Company” Oil on canvas board. 2011. Melyssa Ferguson. 

I really love these books I read, The Agency series, and I was also taking a painting class… So, naturally, I was inspired. :) It’s not finished to my utmost satisfaction, but I don’t think that any artist would say they are 100% happy with any one of their pieces. 

Nerding Out on Books: The Traitor in the Tunnel by Y.S. Lee

Mary Quinn is on her first mission as a full-fledged member of The Agency. While not difficult, her first assignment is full of perils as she serves as a maid in Buckingham Palace attempting to determine who is stealing small knick knacks. When Queen Victoria’s eldest son is involved with a crime in an opium den, Mary finds herself pulled into the crime in ways she did not believe were possible and which will ultimately affect her future with The Agency.

The final book in the trilogy involves yet another intriguing mystery and further delving into Mary’s character and history. Equal in quality to the previous books, we get some of the biggies of the period with Buckingham Palace and Queen Victoria. However, this novel more than the prior two is about Mary’s identity crisis around her biracial parentage which is wrapped up in the central mystery far more than before. I also enjoyed the winks to the reader in the text in references to characters meeting again that wouldn’t be believable in a three-volume novel. A fitting conclusion for the trilogy that will satisfy readers of the series.

The forth and final book in the series, Rivals in the City, is set to release in the UK/World on June 2014, and the in US/Canada on February 2015.

CAN’T WAIT. I thought it was just going to be a trilogy and then I found out there was going to be one more book.