Body at the Tower by Y. S. Lee - 4/5 stars
This is another colourful, action-packed Victorian detective novel about the exploits of agent Mary Quinn. At a young age, Mary Quinn is rescued from the gallows and taken to Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls. The school turns out to be a front for a private detective agency. At age 17, Mary takes on her first case (A Spy in the House). In this, the second book of the series, Mary Quinn sets out to uncover the truth behind a suspicious death at St. Stephen's Tower, better known as the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament. The accident occurred after hours in a highly public part of town and despite the presence of night watchmen. Mary, disguised as Mark Quinn, becomes a builder's assistant to find out the truth about the body at the tower.
First off, if you haven't read A Spy in the House, get thee to a library! In her second adventure, Mary is just as complex, clever, and for lack of a better word, kick ass. She has to disguise herself (again!) as a boy to sneak onto a construction site and almost has her cover blown the very first day. What's that? A flawed character who makes mistakes but then learns from them? Yes please!
I could almost write this entire review about all the things I love about Mary - her fierce independence! her conflict over her racial identity! how adorable she is when she gets accidentally drunk! - but really you should just read the book and fall in love with her yourself.
Everyone's favourite Victorian engineer is back - James! And of course the romance is just as heated as in the first book. Victorian romance is almost hotter than contemporary romance just because you know every improper move they make is a Big Deal.
The plot itself seems simple - murder on a tower - but like the first book, nothing is as simple as CSI makes it out to be. Everything unravels with twists and turns, leaving the reader struggling to figure out what is going on just like Mary. While you might guess at the cause of the murder, it's really only revealed in the climatic scene - the way it should be in a mystery.
Overall, another rockin' Victorian spy mystery. Can't wait for the next one!
Recommended to fans of historical fiction who want a bit of a twist.
(reviewed from a library copy)