Review Blog

Jan 06 2012

The Traitor and the Tunnel : a Mary Quinn mystery by Y. S. Lee

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Walker, 2011. ISBN 9781406315974.
(Ages: 15+) Recommended. Mary is a young woman with a covert life. From a poverty stricken youth in harsh Victorian London that finds her tried and convicted of thievery, to an unexpected reprieve at the hands of a couple of bright, forward thinking women, she is now a trained private detective in a secret, all women's agency. In this, the third novel of the Mary Quinn Mystery series, we find Mary working undercover as a maid in Buckingham Palace, trying to find the culprit in a series of petty thefts. Whilst on the job, the Prince of Wales, becomes embroiled in a murder in an opium den much to the horror of his mother, Queen Victoria. To make matters worse, the prime suspect may be Mary's own long lost father. In her quest to find the truth, Mary witnesses a series of strange events, discovers a secret passage under the Palace and tries to find the traitor in the midst of all these intrigues. She also rekindles her acquaintance with the handsome but infuriating James Easton, all the while trying to ward off the unwelcome advances of the Prince of Wales and the attentions of the sleazy gutter journalist Octavius Jones.
The scenes shift from the opulent drawing rooms to the spartan servant quarters of Buckingham Palace, the prim niceties of Victorian society, to the slums and grim prisons of a dark, desperate London and the sewers that run beneath the city. This historical novel, that is obviously lovingly researched by its author, doesn't become bogged down in details, and is beguiling rather than overwrought. I especially enjoyed the banter and simmering passion between Mary and James, the man who keeps turning up in her life.
Mary is a fine character, that despite her terrible start in life, has managed to retain a sense of humour and worth and maintains self-respect and chutzpah throughout.
This is an enjoyable romp of a tale, though not without sadness and tragedy, which provides a glimpse into the life of Victorian England, as well as being a page turning mystery.
Alicia Papp

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