The Agency sends Mary Quinn to investigate a mysterious murder at St Stephens Tower. Dressed as a twelve-year-old boy, she is required to work on the building site, mingling with the workers to discover what she can. It's a dangerous task and one that reminds her keenly of the dangers and deprivation of her own early childhood.
In this second book in the series, Lee once again leads us through the dark and grimy streets of Victorian London. This is a different world to the previous novel; instead of the middle classes and their shady business intrigues, we are led into working-class London and the daily struggle to survive that is the lot of the ordinary people. The streets, lodging houses, pubs and above all the troubled building site come alive, clear and vivid, in the writing. The characters too seem very real. I felt I was living in the world as I read. I particularly enjoyed the account of the building of St Stephen's Tower with the famous Big Ben bell, running 25 years behind schedule, casting its vast and imposing shadow over the lives of all the characters.
Mary also runs into her former acquaintance James Easton, and once again it's a troubled friendship, full of stormy encounters, secret longings, uncertainty and often a battle of wit and wills.
The Body in the Tower is an outstanding portrayal of Victorian London; in its depiction of everyday life it shows the reader poverty and its traps and the position of women in the Victorian age. It's also an exciting mystery and romance. Highly recommended, whether or not you've read the first book. I couldn't put it down.