The Agency by Y. S. Lee

Reviewed by Keri


Content Ratings based on a 0-5 scale where
0 = no objectionable content and
5 = an excessive or disturbing level of content

Guide to Rating System





Ratings Explanation

Language:  Common swear words

Violence:  Young Mary faces the hanging noose as a punishment for being a pick pocket.  Mary hits her pursuer in an attempt to get away.  She breaks her nose.  A young boy is found murdered at a construction sight.  James and an old man are tied up and left in a burning building to die.

Sexual Content:  James admires Mary’s figure.  He closes his eyes while she changes as they are riding in a carriage.

Adult Content:  Mary is an orphan and left to fend for herself on the streets.  She is eventually caught and brought to trial.  Even though she is a child, she is sentenced to death.  Mary investigates an old house that is used by Asian sailors.  There is obvious use of opium there.  Asians are discriminated against and not thought of as highly as white people.


Mary was orphaned and left to fend for herself on the streets of London.  At the age of twelve she was sentenced as a thief to hang.   On the way to the gallows, she was mysteriously kidnapped and taken to Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls.  There she was offered a place to stay, food to eat and schooling, but she would not be forced to stay.  Mary chose to stay and finished her schooling.  Eventually, she started teaching.  One day the head mistresses asked to meet with her.  They had a new assignment for her if she chose to accept it.  They informed Mary that the school was not just a school, but it also was a secret agency.  They placed unsuspecting girls in common positions to collect information on various cases.   Again,  Mary could choose to accept this new position or go her own way.  Mary accepted the challenge and was given a few weeks of training before being assigned to her first case.  Her job would be to find any information she could about illegal shipping and smuggling from a wealthy shipping merchant  in London.   Mary was assigned to be a lady’s companion to the daughter of this merchant in hopes that she could glean information from the day to day activities of the family as well as using her off-times for a little snooping.   Mary’s background as a street child became an advantage to her as she came up against the challenges of picking locks, escaping guard dogs and burning buildings all while untangling a mess of clues that just didn’t seem to fit together.   Not only does Mary uncover more than she bargained for but she also finds a link to her past.

The first in its series, this book is set in Victorian times with a hint of Jane Austen flare.  The author brings the challenges of a growing London, the position of women, and racial discrimination into the story line.  The main character, Mary, is a daring yet charming heroine.  She is still young and learning from her mistakes, which adds to her character.   There are plenty of hair raising adventures intertwined with a little romance.  This was a fun read which kept me turning the pages and putting off going to bed.  The third book in this series was just released in Feb. of 2012.



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