Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Agency: The Traitor in the Tunnel

The Traitor in the Tunnel (The Agency #3) by Y.S. Lee 2012
Candlewick Press

Rating: 4/5

IQ "All the feelings she had long suppressed overcame her at last, making her stagger. It was like a physical blow: she not just alone, but lonely. The solitary sate was nothing new, of course. But she was lonely now for different reasons. She was lonely despite the possibility of family-perhaps because of that very likelihood. Because she might not be absolutely truly alone, after all, and she might have preferred it so." Mary pg. 98

Mary Quinn is officially an agent and she is determined to do exceptionally well on her first assignment. To her dismay, she is given a "boring" case in which a petty thief is stealing inconsequential things from Buckingham Palace. Mary is placed as a maid in Queen Victoria's court in order to prevent any future thefts and discover the identity of the thief. But while Mary grows impatient with her case another arises when the Prince of Wales witnesses a murder in an opium den. The queen does not want him to testify due to the scandal and Mary's interest is piqued further when she learns that the accused killer may be someone she is quite familiar with.

Compared to the other two books, this one left me disappointed in terms of the mystery. The mystery element seemed to be completely disregarded at times. Worse, the conclusion was random and anti-climatic. It was not nearly as exciting or interesting as I had hoped. I read this as though it would be the final book in the trilogy (it was originally supposed to be a trilogy and it is the 3rd book) so perhaps that explains some of the ambiguity in terms of the motives of certain characters (lady-in-waiting, Octavius Jones, Anne & Felicity). Nevertheless I am still baffled as to why the criminal(s) committed the crimes that they did.

I chose the quote I did because I can relate to not necessarily wanting company, to preferring being alone but not lonely. But what this book lacks in terms of mystery development, it more than makes up for it on the romance front. James & Mary have the most engaging of exchanges, especially at the end. They both have a wry sense of humor, stubborn nature, a love of adventure and a belief in fairness for all. They make a wonderfully exasperating team which makes the storyline all the more fun. I was thrilled that we finally learned more about Mary's past, this is when new twists are thrown into the story and everything untangles in a way that makes sense. As always the best part of the book is Mary Quinn herself (with Mary&James a close second). Mary is extremely resourceful, it is amusing to see how frustrated she gets with this case in which no gossip is allowed at the palace, thus how is she to discover information? Never doubt that Mary Quinn will find a way to obtain the information she wants. Mary's resilience is inspiring, and I love the author's focus on her working-class origins as well as the daily life of other working-class people. I think many historical novels today want to focus solely on the wealthy or upper middle class, it's nice to see a book that does not shy away from describing the poverty of Victorian England and the grinding lives of the English and immigrant working class.

I needed a lovely historical fiction read, one that reminded me of why I loved studying history so much and The Traitor in the Tunnel more than delivered on that front. I appreciated the personal glimpses of Queen Victoria when she was not playing her role as THE QUEEN, instead the author paints a portray of a Queen Victoria who bore a great weight on her shoulders but who also loved her family and lots of laughter, she had a mischievous spirit. I felt that this book in the series spent more time explaining things but not in a boring manner, rather the author finds ways to cleverly insert historical or tactical information into the story (or blink-and-you-might-miss-it). One of my 'complaints' (not really I complaint since I LOVED the second book) was that I wanted to know more about The Agency and gradually more details are being revealed in this book. James Easton is infatuated with Mary Quinn as am I. This is a series that I cannot praise enough, I wish every world/European history class had at least one of these books as required reading.

Disclosure: Received from the author as part of the Candlewick Blog Tour. Thank you so much for including me Ms. Lee & Candlewick! Please read the guest post (very prevalent to the book) about opium as a Victorian obsession