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The Ruby in the Smoke (1985)

by Philip Pullman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Sally Lockhart Mysteries (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,1241002,887 (3.73)173
In nineteenth-century London, sixteen-year-old Sally, a recent orphan, becomes involved in a deadly search for a mysterious ruby.
  1. 60
    A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee (Anonymous user, Caramellunacy)
    Caramellunacy: Both stories are Victorian-era mysteries with smart and feisty female protagonists. Pullman's trilogy is definitely the darker of the two series, but Lee's complex and capable protagonist makes The Agency series well worth a read for cozy mystery lovers.… (more)
  2. 20
    Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (Aleana)
  3. 32
    A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (norabelle414)
    norabelle414: Excellent Victorian era historical fiction mysteries with strong female protagonists
  4. 00
    The Broken Bridge by Philip Pullman (norabelle414)
  5. 00
    The Escape From Home by Avi (nocowardsoul)
  6. 00
    The Affinity Bridge by George Mann (rosylibrarian)
  7. 00
    The Musician's Daughter by Susanne Dunlap (sweetiegherkin)
  8. 00
    The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle by Catherine Webb (HatsForMice)
    HatsForMice: Another Victorian London-set mystery, but with a fantasy element, more humour and a stronger sense of setting.
  9. 00
    The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer (Aleana)
  10. 00
    Les étranges soeurs Wilcox, Tome 1 : Les vampires de Londres by Fabrice Colin (Aleana)
  11. 00
    The Heiress of Linn Hagh by Karen Charlton (wordcauldron)
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» See also 173 mentions

English (94)  French (3)  Dutch (1)  All languages (98)
Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
I enjoyed this early novel by the author, the first in a series about the character of Sally Lockhart. Sally (whose real name is Veronica) is a barely tolerated 'guest' at the house of her unpleasant aunt as the story opens, her father having been lost on a voyage in the South China Seas. Sally goes to the shipping office of the company her father co-owned with a man called Shelby. She meets Jim, an intelligent and resourceful office boy who goes on to play quite a major role in the book. When she is shown in to meet an officer of the firm and starts to mention things which have been included in an anonymous letter she has received, he keels over with a heart attack, triggering off a series of events which turn Sally's world upside down.

I enjoyed the unravelling of the mystery and the relationship between Sally and Jim and between her and some other characters who befriend and help her along the way. The main villian, Mrs Holland, is a nicely melodramatic, almost Dickensian, character.

The difficulties of being a woman in Victorian England are well portrayed - Sally has had a very unconventional education, raised by her father to handle a gun, analyse the Stock Market, understand book-keeping and speak Hindustani at a time when genteel young woman were supposed to have 'accomplishments' such as piano playing, painting pictures and having a smattering of French. As such, she struggles at first to find her way although she luckily finds a home where she can make a contribution with her skills. There is also some interesting background about the opium trade which lends a darker note to the story.

However, the story is a bit uneven. At the beginning, it comes across as being from the viewpoint of an omniscient narrator, with Sally described from the outside - especially the note about what she is about to (inadvertantly) do - and the reader being informed that there are three other people/events who will have an impact on Sally. This style was more like that of an actual novel of the period in which it is set. It did become less intrusive as the book went on, although there were scenes showing what some of the villains are up to, rather than staying with Sally. However, apart from her attempts to recover her own lost memories, she doesn't play a huge part in resolving the mysteries. Her focus is more on the problem of how to earn a living after leaving her aunt, as she dare not approach her father's lawyer for fear of being made a ward of court. That was interesting, but I felt that, as the protagonist, she should have had more agency in resolving the central mystery. A key part of that is instead handed off to one of the secondary characters - a major action happens off stage and we are told about it afterwards.

The book also has two climaxes because a hinted at, behind-the-scenes, villain materialises late in the story, and I also wasn't keen on the rather cliched reason for Mrs Holland's enmity towards Sally. So given those issues, I can only award it 3 stars although I did enjoy the story. ( )
  kitsune_reader | Nov 23, 2023 |
I really enjoyed this. It was a straightforward mystery with a great cast of characters. I loved Sally. She reminded me a lot of Claire Trevelyan from Magnificient Devices. She's smart and capable if not a little unsure of herself, but she's determined and creative enough to solve her own problems. I loved all the characters - they were all smart and kind and cheeky. Jim was my favourite, although Rosa was a pretty close second. The mystery was interesting and a little spooky with the whole opium element. There was lots of intrigue and I loved Jim going off on his own (he solves the riddle and goes and gets the ruby from the pub) to execute plans inspired by his Penny Dreadfuls. For all Sally is the main character, she's not the one who really solves the mystery. Rather it instead unfolds with both the villains and the heroes portraying their part in the story.

Fantastic read. 3.5 stars, rounded to 4. ( )
  funstm | Sep 29, 2023 |
I read this book when I was growing up and I only remember two things:
1. It was boring
2. Opium. So much opium ( )
  settingshadow | Aug 19, 2023 |
This is a wonderful little story. It follows Sally Lockheart a young girl in Victorian London whose father has recently died while on business in the far east. All, however, is not as it seems. Sally receives a cryptic message purportedly from her father which hints at a mystery. It sets in motion far bigger wheels than Sally imagines and she is swept into the underground criminal world which inhabits the docks of London.

A really nice little story with as many twists and turns as the dark lanes around the docks. ( )
  Cotswoldreader | May 30, 2023 |
This is the first of Pullman's Sally Lockhart mysteries. The book is a quick, engaging read. The perfect sort of light amusing fluff for a long train ride, as I happened to be on when I read it. In fact, the only problem with it, as a book for the train, is that it was too quick of a read. I finished it before we were halfway to our destination!
  eri_kars | Jul 10, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip Pullmanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Benson, LindaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lesser, AntonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mak, KamCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stutzman, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On a cold, fretful afternoon in early October, 1872, a hansom cab drew up outside the offices of Lockhart and Selby, Shipping Agents in the financial heart of London, and a young girl got out and paid the driver.
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In nineteenth-century London, sixteen-year-old Sally, a recent orphan, becomes involved in a deadly search for a mysterious ruby.

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Soon after Sally Lockhart's father drowns at sea, she receives a strange anonymous letter. The dire warning it contains makes a man die of fear at her feet. Determined to discover the truth about her father's death, Sally is plunged into a terrifying mystery in the dark heart of Victorian London, at the centre of which lie a deadly blood-soaked jewel.
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