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The Agency 2: The Body at the Tower (The Agency Mysteries) Paperback – August 9, 2011

65 customer reviews
Book 2 of 4 in the Agency Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up–Mary Quinn returns in another case for the Agency, a covert all-female detective agency in Victorian London. A man has recently fallen out of the soon-to-be-completed clock tower of the Houses of Parliament. Mary disguises herself as an errand boy and attempts to infiltrate the work site to discover potential suspects. After a rocky start, she finds herself learning much about the workers and the site engineer, Mr. Harkness, including that someone may be stealing building supplies. She also discovers that her old partner, James Easton, has returned from India after suffering from a bout with malaria. The two quickly join forces to try and solve the murder. This second book is much stronger than the first, both in terms of character development and the central mystery. Mary grows and struggles, first to come to terms with her past and secondly with her growing feelings for James. The two have a fiery relationship that threatens to boil over at any moment as they move from sparring to kissing, sometimes in the span of a page. Through Mary, readers also get an up-close glimpse into the darker side of Victorian London, particularly through her relationship with fellow errand boy Jenkins, who is the sole breadwinner for his family. Mary proves that she is definitely a detective to keep an eye on.Necia Blundy, Marlborough Public Library, MA
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The second book in the Agency series finds Mary Quinn still undercover at the all-female detective agency that’s run out of Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls. Her new assignment is dangerous both because she is tracking a murderer and she must work as an apprentice on the building site of the Houses of Parliament. Disguising herself as a boy brings back memories of Mary’s deprived childhood, where assuming a male identity was the only way to keep herself safe. Smart and suspenseful, this offers a solid heroine and a strong sense of life in Victorian England. Grades 8-12. --Ilene Cooper --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 760L (What's this?)
  • Series: The Agency Mysteries (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; Reprint edition (August 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763656437
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763656430
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #963,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Y S Lee was born in Singapore, raised in Vancouver and Toronto, and lived for a spell in England. As she completed her PhD in Victorian literature and culture, she began to research a story about a girl detective in 1850s London. The result was her debut novel, The Agency: A Spy in the House. This won the Canadian Children's Book Centre's inaugural John Spray Mystery Award in 2011.

The Agency quartet continues with The Body at the Tower and The Traitor and the Tunnel, both of which were nominated for awards. Rivals in the City, coming in February 2015, is the final book in the Agency series. All four books are published by Candlewick Press (US/Canada) and Walker Books (UK/Australia). The novels have also been translated into French, German, Spanish, Italian, Korean and Turkish.

In her previous life as an academic, Ying wrote Masculinity and the English Working Class (Routledge). She now lives in Kingston, Ontario.

She blogs every Wednesday at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By The Eager Readers on September 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Y.S. Lee's The Agency 2: The Body at the Tower is the second book in a series of mystery novels following Mary Quinn, a Victorian girl who was sentenced to death at the age of twelve and was fortunate enough to be rescued by a couple of women who run an exclusive school (as well as a secret investigative agency). In the first book, The Agency: A Spy in the House, Mary was sent undercover on her first field-training exercise. The second book begins about a year later, when Mary accepts a new undercover assignment. This time she must pretend to be a young boy in order to secure a job on a construction site where a man was recently found dead. Not only is her cover story challenging to maintain, but living the day-to-day life of a young boy brings back several of Mary's worst memories of disguising herself as a boy in order to protect herself back when she was a young girl living in poverty. More danger and more romance, The Body at the Tower is a great addition to the Mary Quinn series!

What I Liked:
- James Easton! After the way A Spy in the House ended, I wasn't sure how or when James and Mary would manage to cross paths again. I was thrilled to see more of James in this book! But his life has become significantly more complex. His experience in India impaired his health, altered his career trajectory, and essentially knocked some of the wind out of his sails. I loved that he wasn't exactly the same person he'd been before. He is now a bit more of a realist who finds himself frustrated by his physical condition, sensitive to being coddled, and quite possibly more stubborn than ever. But James hasn't lost his sharp wit, his charming grin, or his interest in Mary.
- There is more opportunity for romance this time around.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By GreenBeanTeenQueen on August 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I was a huge fan of the first book in this series, A Spy in the House, and when I love a book that much, the sequels make me nervous. But I didn't need to worry because The Body at the Tower proves that Y.S. Lee is a master storyteller who rules the historical mystery.

The banter I loved from the first book between Mary and James was back-and with things heating up between them, I kept the pages turning and I think James may be a new book crush! I still adore The Agency and I want to know more about them. I'd be OK with The Agency spin-off novels about Anne and Felicity, the women who rule the female detective operation!:)

Because this job requires Mary to disguise herself in boy's clothing, we get a peek into Mary's past. I thought her hesitancy about taking the job were believable and I liked getting to more about her life before The Agency found her. We also get to see Mary's struggle with her heritage and culture, which I think gives these books an extra twist and makes them stand out. Even though Mary says she's going to hide her past and her heritage, I think there's more to learn there, so I'm hoping we find out more about her father in the next book.

I did have a harder time getting into the mystery in this book than I did the first one, but I think that was due to the fact that the mystery took place on a building site, which is something I'm not familiar with. So there were a few times that I felt a little lost in the setting because I was having to learn about Victorian building sites and equipment on top of figuring out Mary's mystery.

Even if you're not a fan of historical fiction, these books will pull you in. I love that author Y.S.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I don't normally read historical fiction--but the hook of an all female undercover spy agency was too interesting to pass up. The story was well-written and seemed historically accurate. I thought the author did well with the dialogue (making it seem old fashioned and authentic without taking away from the accessibility), as well as using correct terminology for the time. Personally I was expecting more of a lighthearted teenage spy thriller, and this book seemed more like an exploration of the setting, utilizing the story to examine things like class, gender, and race. If you like historical fiction, it's an excellent book. It just wasn't quite what I expected.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nicola Mansfield on September 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

I want to say The Body at the Tower is even better than book 1 but I think that's because I've just finished reading it. The follow up to A Spy in the House is just as amazingly brilliant as its predecessor. A fast-paced, read-into-the-night Victorian mystery.

Mary Quinn has been sent on assignment this time to go undercover as a young boy. Chopping her hair off and binding her chest tightly her petite half Chinese frame allows her to pull this off without a hitch. She is sent to the construction site of St. Stephen's Clock Tower which holds the bell, Big Ben. A construction worker has just been found dead at the bottom of the tower, having supposedly either fallen or jumped. Mary's assignment is to infiltrate the construction crew and pick up any insider information on the man's death and also to look into the state of affairs concerning the construction management itself.

Lee's depiction of Victorian times is authentic and never loses its credibility. As I've said previously, Ms. Lee has managed to pick the perfect profession for her heroine to move about within the confines of this rigid society. As a spy, her disguises allow her to cross class lines and present as a bold, outspoken woman in private. This time around disguised as a boy, there are no boundaries to "Mark's" world. As Mark, Mary has access to a construction site, pubs, the streets at night, and plenty of places a woman of any respectability, no matter how small, would never deem to go.

The mystery is an intricate plot with several different tracks being followed. People of bad character are easy to find but it doesn't necessarily make them the villains in these particular circumstances.
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