October 21, 2010

The Body at the Tower: In A Nutshell

The Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee

It's London, 1859. A man has just died under mysterious circumstances, but the only culprit anyone can pin it on is the ghost of the tower.

That is, until Mary Quinn gets involved...

She works for a secret women's organization called the Agency, and she's eager to prove that she can help crack the case. The plan? Masquerade as a boy and work on the construction site where the body was found. She can eavesdrop, mingle, and meet people who might be able to give her information.

But Mary's not prepared to meet the one person who could at any moment reveal her identity – James Easton. The man she thought she'd never see again is back, and both as helpful and as aggravating as ever...

The Body at the Tower is book 2 in Lee's Agency series. I was looking forward to this one after enjoying book 1 (The Spy in the House), and I really whipped through it, staying up late to finish!

One sentence sum-up: A mystery set in Victorian London with lots of sleuthing and a dash of romance.

My reaction: I really found this an enjoyable, entertaining read. I thought about putting it down, going to bed, and finishing it the next day...but I didn't, because I wanted to find out how it ended before I went to sleep. That always means that I'm really into the book!

Getting into Mary's mindset took a bit of time (it's been a while since I read the first book, and also Mary and I are quite different) but soon enough I was sucked into the story. The plot is a little slow-moving in the middle, but the climactic scene was quite exciting.

The Body at the Tower does have a similar storyline structure to the first book, so it was sometimes a bit predictable. I am absolutely terrible at actually solving mysteries so I couldn't figure out all the intricate details as I read; I'm not sure how somebody more adept at playing detective would find it.

Best aspect: Hands-down, the interaction and dialogue between James and Mary. This is what I liked best about book 1 as well, and it's fabulous to watch their relationship develop in this second book (although it takes a little while for James to appear on the scene again...I kept waiting for that!) They spend half the time arguing and the other half trying to help each other, it's very cute. I was happy to see Mary finally open up to James a little bit more; she is so defensive and secretive (and given her past, it's hardly surprising) but she needs to learn how to trust.

Also, Lee does a great job evoking a sense of living in London at that time; the historical setting is spot-on.

If I could change something... Well, the book does use the common device of having the villain explain the motive and everything behind the crime during the climactic scene. Later this is recapped in detail, so there's a bit of repetition that may not be necessary. And while the plot itself is engrossing, the explanation of the mystery is not super exciting (although it is probably fairly realistic for the times).

And, I would have liked to have seen a bit more of the side characters in this one. Keenan and Reid both seem like interesting personalities, but we don't get to know them in depth, unfortunately.

In five words or less: fun historical mystery/romance!

Quote (not my favorite, but that would be spoiling):

"And you are what you are!"

"Pray tell," he drawled, coldly angry now.

"Arrogant, high-handed, and controlling!"

"Rather that than arrogant, impulsive, and irresponsible."

She flung herself up from the sofa and stalked around the room. "It's my life, not yours! Can't you understand that?"

Rating: 4.5 shooting stars

Bottom line: I want to read the next one now!

Author's website: http://yslee.com/

Disclaimer: I won this book in a contest.


  1. I've read the first book and am itching to read this one. Also happy to know that James is back.

  2. I've seen this one around but never got to reading it yet! 4.5 stars must be a big wow so hopefully I can get my hands on this one! Thanks for your review!

  3. I must get round to reading the first book of the series- thanks for reminding me about it!


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