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The Agency 1: A Spy in the House / by Y.S. Lee


The Agency 1: A Spy in the House
Author: Y. S. Lee
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4067-5
Year: 2010

Concepts: poverty, wealth, incentives, jobs, trade, racial and gender discrimination

  Orphaned at a young age, Mary had taken to the streets in her attempt to survive.  What started out as petty theft turned into housebreaking and even riskier crimes, until she was caught at the age of twelve and sentenced to death. After all, no one in Victorian London had tolerance for such infractions, even those committed by a child. No one, that is, except for the leaders of the Agency, a top secret organization of female spies who educated potential trainees in the school that disguised their identity, Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls. 

Rescued from the gallows by the Agency leaders, Mary spent the next five years in residence until that fateful day when she learned of the school’s secret operation and her own first mission. Assigned a cover that involved working for a rich family as a paid companion for their spoiled daughter, Mary was charged with finding clues pointing to insurance fraud and the smuggling of stolen artifacts from India aboard the father’s merchant ships.  Little did Mary realize the extent to which the assignment would place her in a hotbed of danger and deception.

Filled with action, intrigue, and even a little romance, this new novel offers readers a smart storyline set in an era when women and girls had few opportunities and almost no rights.  The author carefully uses this context, along with the idea that people’s behaviors respond to incentives, to motivate key elements of the richly-satisfying plot. 

Review by:  Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children 

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