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Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction in fine manners — and an unusual vocation. Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls is a cover for an all-female investigative unit called The Agency, and at seventeen, Mary is about to put her training to the test. Assuming the guise of a lady’s companion, she must infiltrate a rich merchant’s home in hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the household is full of dangerous deceptions, and there is no one to trust — or is there? Packed with action and suspense, banter and romance, and evoking the gritty backstreets of Victorian London, this breezy mystery debuts a daring young detective who lives by her wits while uncovering secrets — including those of her own past.
Thoughts: I got this book through the GoodReads First Reads program, and of all the books I entered a draw for, I'm really glad I was picked to receive this one. A Victorian mystery was just what I needed as a comfortable break between all those vampire novels!
This wasn't a very heavy novel, which was definitely nice, but it did have enough of an intruiging plot to keep things moving well. There were a few little nitpicky negatives regarding this book (a few scenes could have been rearranged to better effect, I think, and I'm disappointed that George Easton seemed like he only existed as a way of introducing James), but overall, it was enjoyable to read.
The author's strength in writing is clear in the characters, and with very few exceptions, the characters are wonderfully real and can be related to in one form or another. She also has strength in period details, something which people unacquainted with Victoriana might not appreciate, but since I'm a fan of the era, I saw the little things that made the story just that much more believable.
More than once I found myself debating whether it would be better for James and Mary to just get a room, or to duke it out in the middle of the street. Possibly both, given their fiery personalities and the nature of their relationship.
In a nutshell, this book was an enjoyable read, not too taxing, fun to curl up with. I recommend it to those who enjoy light mysteries and to those who enjoy a good trip back to Victorian England. I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel.