Title: The Ruby in the Smoke (Sally Lockhart #1)
Author: Phillip Pullman
On the Shelves: Young Adult> Mystery
“Sally is sixteen and uncommonly pretty. Her knowledge of English literature, French, history, art and music is non-existent, but she has a thorough grounding in military tactics, can run a business, ride like a Cossack and shoot straight with a pistol.
When her dear father is drowned in suspicious circumstances in the South China Sea, Sally is left to fend for herself, an orphan and alone in the smoky fog of Victorian London. Though she doesn’t know it, Sally is already in terrible danger. Soon the mystery and the danger will deepen – and at the rotten heart of it all lies the deadly secret of the ruby in the smoke…” (Goodreads 2014)
I read this book about a year after reading Pullman’s most popular works His Dark Materials, and I’m sorry to say that I enjoyed this so much more than HDM! I really need to crack on with the other three books in this series because I was gripped. The books are only short but Pullman’s writing sucks you in.
“The Ruby in the Smoke”, is the first book in a series of “Sally Lockhart Mysteries”, which I figure is a little like a Victorian England version of Nancy Drew (which I still have not read any of). Anyway, Sally Lockhart is a young girl whose father recently passed away, he drowned in suspicious circumstances and left Sally an Orphan, all alone in London. Sally soon comes across something her father left her to protect and suddenly the world and everyone in it is chasing her down for it. I can’t say too much else because of spoilers.
The writing in this book is brilliant, the pacing is intense, the characters have a lovely depth to them and it’s just so well executed. Despite Sally Lockhart basically falling under the “special snowflake” syndrome where she is good at everything for no real reason, she is an enjoyable character. The world building is perfect. I have seen books written by some authors, where their versions of “victorian london” make me cringe (sadly this often is a result of American authors writing scenes or stories set in “victorian england”- which tends to be a weird mixture of too much “Oliver!” and “Jack the Ripper” crap).
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys thrillers, mysteries, or even anyone who just wants to see how to correctly write a book set in “Victorian London”. Because this is how it is done.