Get steeped in suspense, romance, and high Victorian intrigue as Mary goes undercover at Buckingham Palace - and learns a startling secret at the Tower of London. 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.
Hardcover, 373 pages
Expected publication: February 28th 2012 by Candlewick Press
Three and a half stars: A book with a little something for everyone: mystery, romance, history and thrills.
Mary Quinn is working undercover on her first real assignment. She is posing as a parlor maid in Buckingham Palace. Mary in actuality is a secret agent working for an agency that employs all women spies/ detectives. Mary is sent to the palace to try and track down a thief. Someone is stealing small artifacts from the palace. While performing her daily duties, Mary unwittingly stumbles across the sticky circumstances surrounding the Prince of Wales elicit nighttime activities. During a Saturday night foray with a friend, he stumbles into an opium den in London's underbelly. An altercation breaks out and his prestigious friend is stabbed to death by an opium addicted, Chinese sailor. Mary, while eavesdropping, learns the name of the murderer. Is it possible that her absent, Chinese father, who was supposedly lost at sea, is the perpetrator? While Mary is busy investigating the thefts and now the possibility of her father being involved in the killing, she receives a summons from the agency to abandon her post. She learns from the head mistresses of the agency she is being recalled due to the fact that the sewers running under Buckingham Palace are set to be renovated by a company that employs none other than, James Easton. Could the plot thicken anymore? Yes, in fact it can. Head to nineteenth century London and follow Mary as she unravels the case.
What I Liked:
- I enjoyed Mary's character. In an era where women are still struggling to overcome prejudice, Mary strides on scene, unafraid to tackle a tough case. During her investigation there are numerous occasions where Mary shines. She has backbone and is unafraid to do what it takes to get the job done. She sneaks out of the Palace under the watchful eyes of the guards, investigates the sewers in the middle of the night and takes a stand to help those dealt an unjust hand. Mary is an admirable character.
- I loved the historical setting of nineteenth century London. This book takes you into the heart of London, Buckingham Palace is the main setting. As an American, who is not well read on the history of Great Britain, I enjoyed taking a trip back in time and learning more about London during the period when the U.S. was caught in the Civil War. The author does a great job in depicting London and some of its famous landmarks.
- The plot is rich and complex. This book has several plot lines to follow from the initial case of solving the thefts, to tracking down her father, discovering who the traitor in the tunnel is, determining the role of the Prince in the murder and finally rectifying her feelings for James. Ms. Lee skillfully weaves all these divergent story threads into a cohesive plot.
- I enjoyed the depiction of Queen Victoria. She comes across as a capable, strong and fair ruler. I especially loved her appearance at the end of the book. She shows no fear. My one regret was again, that I am not well informed on the British monarchy, so I don't know how accurate the portrayal is of the Queen.
- I was happy that all the threads tied off neatly at the end. No dreaded cliffhanger, but the author presents some intriguing snippets to follow in upcoming books.
And The Not So Much:
- One of the biggest problems during my read was my fault, I have not read the preceding books in this series. I usually don't start a series in the middle, this is a rare exception. While I was perfectly fine reading this book without having read the others, there were numerous references to events that occurred in past. If I had read the other two books, I am sure I would have enjoyed this read even more. I was especially handicapped in not knowing the complete history between Mary and James.
- I was not completely satisfied with the final explanation of the lady in waiting's involvement in the plot. Why was she trying to seduce the prince? Why did she have such a devotion to her step father? I felt this point needed a bit more clarification.
- I was unclear of the role of Octavius Jones, what exactly was he after? I am still unsure of his intentions.
The Traitor in the Tunnel is a book for those who seek a book that is different. This book has plenty of aspects to keep readers engaged. It has thick plot with mystery, romance, twists and turns, danger and history all rolled into one. This is an enjoyable stand alone novel, however, it would be enhanced by reading the two preceding books in the series. Nevertheless, this was an exciting and fun read.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher Candlewick Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
“Trouble snapped at her heels from all directions.”
“Memory was an unreliable guide.”
“And the eyes themselves--Mary repressed a shudder. They were defeat made human, a world of pain entire.”
“In an opium dream, there is no reason.”
--”why wouldn’t I like a woman who ranks me higher than God?”
“That man also used to say that is character is destiny.”
“Together, they were a world entire, and instead of being terrified, she found the thought exhilarating.”
“She lost herself in a haze of textures, of flesh against flesh, of silk on skin, of breath caressing lips and lashes.”