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A Thrilling Victorian Mystery: The Body at the Tower

July 20, 2011 | Claire | Comments (25)

Agency If you're a fan of Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew or anything in between, check out Y.S. Lee's latest Mary Quinn mystery, The Body at the Tower.  The tower of the British Houses of Parliament are being rebuilt as part of a major reconstruction  after the fire of 1834.  A man falls out of the tower in mysterious circumstances and the Scrimshaw detective agency is asked to find out whether the death was an accident or a murder.  Mary goes undercover, dressed as a boy, and gets a job in the building site as an apprentice.  There the dangers mount, and Mary has to use all her wits to navigate her way to the truth.

I liked this book for a few different reasons.  First of all, I like the idea of a secret all-female detective agency operating in Victorian England.  I like Mary Quinn, with her smarts, her courage and her complicated background. And I totally love how the book makes Victorian London spring to life so vividly that I almost feel I'm there, smelling it, seeing it, feeling it.  The social injustices of the time, including the way children can face starvation if their parents lose their jobs, die or even just get sick for a while, are chilling, and remind me that we're lucky to live here and now.  

And hey!  The author, Y.S. Lee, is Canadian, but studied Victorian Culture in university, so she knows what she's talking about!  Maybe that's why she can make the time period feel so real. 

What different times and places do you like to read about?


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The web space of Toronto Public Library's 2011 teen summer reading program. Feel free to look around, but the summer of 2011 is over now.