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Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Agency: The Traitor in the Tunnel, written by Y. S. Lee. Candlewick, Random House. 2012. $19.00 ages 12 and up

"The instant her feet touched solid ground, Mary opened the lantern just enough to create a small, concentrated beam of light and shine it about. The sewer was a brick tube, its floor only slightly damp. At its tallest point, it was perhaps seven feet high - more than ample for even a very tall man to stand upright in, as long as he remained in the center of the tube. This was surprising:"

Oh, boy! I sure am sorry I waited so long to meet Mary Quinn. When I was telling Erin that I had finished Traitor in the Tunnel at suppertime, she reminded that she had previously told me how good this series is. Silly me!

Well, this is the third in The Agency series and it is a most enjoyable read. It stands alone, although I am sure that I would have enjoyed it even more had I read the first two books. I will not wait long to do just that. It has mystery, romance, a Victorian England setting and a cast of characters that keep you on your toes as you enjoy their story.

Mary Quinn proved herself capable in her last adventure. So, in this third tale, she is given a new assignment at Buckingham Palace. Hiring on as part of the household staff, she is charged with discovering the petty thief who is stealing knick-knacks from the palace. It seems trivial. As events unfold, Mary finds herself drawn into other rather more insidious happenings.

She is able to conceal herself when the police bring Queen Victoria's son, the Prince of Wales, home from a night of revelry and murder. It seems he has been discovered in an opium den where one of his aristocratic friends was found murdered. The man charged is a Lascar, an opium addicted sailor who seems to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. He has been charged with murder and taken to jail. Add to that the discovery that the accused man is her long lost father, and that there is a plan afoot to blow up Buckingham Palace and you have a fast-paced, well-plotted adventure.

The setting is perfect. There are scenes between staff that show what conditions were like for so many at the time of Victoria's reign. Servants could be nasty to each other, plot to get rid of those they didn't like, and treat those below in abominable ways. There are some attention-grabbing scenes between Mary and the royals whom she serves. In fact, I went back to read a few of them a second time...most entertaining.

Mary is independent, and totally capable of taking care of herself. She has great loyalty to her father despite all of the hardships his abandonment caused. She is determined to save him from certain death on the gallows after being accused of murder. She helps James (her most handsome, and antagonistic love interest) when he discovers explosives in the sewers below the palace, at risk to her own life.

We leave knowing that there will be another book. James and Mary have professed their love for each other and their wish to marry. Despite the many quaint customs concerning women of the time, Mary has no intention of giving up her work as a detective. In fact, she makes James an offer that he finds very hard to resist.

Be on the lookout for Rivals in the City. It's my understanding that it is next on the list for these most
impressive and entertaining characters. Bring them on, Ms. Lee!

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