Synopsis: Queen Victoria has a little problem: there’s a petty thief at work in Buckingham Palace. Charged with discretion, the Agency puts quickwitted Mary Quinn on the case, where she must pose as a domestic while fending off the attentions of a feckless Prince of Wales. But when the prince witnesses the murder of one of his friends in an opium den, the potential for scandal looms large. And Mary faces an even more unsettling possibility: the accused killer, a Chinese sailor imprisoned in the Tower of London, shares a name with her long-lost father. Meanwhile, engineer James Easton, Mary’s onetime paramour, is at work shoring up the sewers beneath the palace, where an unexpected tunnel seems to be very much in use. Can Mary and James trust each other (and put their simmering feelings aside) long enough to solve the mystery and protect the Royal Family? Hoist on your waders for Mary’s most personal case yet, where the stakes couldn’t be higher – and she has everything to lose.
The Cover: Fits in well with the rest of the series. I love the artist rendition of Mary Quinn. That’s what she looks like in my mind. The
First Line (from the Prologue): “The old man was all but barefoot, with only a mismatched pair of leather flaps, much eroded by time and wear, bound to his feet with strips of rags.” Another unnecessary prologue. When this scene comes into play, it would have been just as powerful without the heads up the prologue provides.
The First Line (from Chapter 1): “Her Majesty Victoria, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, Defender of the Faith, had a lamp shade on her head. Again.” I love this opening. You get a sense of humanity to a legendary queen that draws you into the story. Not only does the reader need to know why she’s got a lamp shade on her head, they wonder why this is a common occurrence. I chuckled as I read this line.
The Good: Oh, Mary Quinn, how I love your adventures. A strong young woman in Victorian England in a completely non-realistic plot is so much fun to read. That is one of the best things about these books. They’re fun to read and a great escape from reality. And the twist at the end, well played by the author.
The Bad: Not enough James, although I suspect that will be remedied in the fourth book. At lease, I certainly hope so.
Recommendation: If you are looking for a mystery with a strong female lead, then pick up A Spy in the House and don’t stop reading until you finish The Traitor in the Tunnel. If you are looking for a great romance that arcs beautifully over the course of a series, pick these up. If, however, you are looking for an historically accurate novel, you should either force yourself to suspend belief for a while or not even bother. But you’ll probably regret it. Y.S. Lee has created a fun, adventurous series. I can’t wait to see what happens next.