Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Review: The Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pullman

"Her name was Sally Lockhart; and within fifteen minutes, she was going to kill a man."
-- The Ruby in the Smoke, p. 1

In The Ruby in the Smoke, Phillip Pullman combines three of my favorite things: young adult fiction, a good mystery and a Victorian era setting.

Sixteen-year-old Sally Lockhart has recently lost her father in a shipwreck. After receiving a mysterious note warning her to “beware of the Seven Blessings”, she visits her late father’s shipping firm in the hope that someone there can make sense of the note. When she asks one of her father’s employees about the Seven Blessings, the man is so terrified that he dies of a heart attack right in front of Sally. And so begins a chain of events that will have Sally questioning the circumstances of her father’s death as well as her connection to a priceless Indian ruby. All the while Sally is pursued by a series of villains who are determined to kill her before she can learn the truth.

The Ruby in the Smoke is filled with colorful, vivid characters that seem ready to leap off the page. Sally is a strong female character, but she’s not perfect by any means. Pullman avoided the pitfall of turning her into an unrealistic super heroine, while still highlighting her cleverness and charm. Even some of the villains are likeable while still being villainous; I was very amused by one soft-hearted thug who gives a temperance tract to a drunken man he’s just beaten up.

With witty dialogue and twists and turns on nearly every page, The Ruby in the Smoke is a delightful and exciting read. I highly recommended it to any reader who loves a good mystery.

Rating: 8/10

Buy The Ruby in the Smoke:
Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon


  1. Sounds like a good read. Did you read Pullman's Golden Compass and the other two that go with it? I loved those! I found you via the book blowout. Just stopped by to say hi.

  2. Hi Ya Ya's Mom! Thanks for stopping in. I have all three of the His Dark Materials books on my shelf, but haven't read them yet. I can't wait to read them now; I really liked Pullman's style.

  3. I've had this one on my wishlist for a while now. I listened to the audio versions of His Dark Materials, which I absolutely loved. They remain by far the best audiobooks I've ever listened to (especially The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife).

  4. Traci: I'm definitely going to check out the audiobook versions after I read through the His Dark Materials trilogy. I'm always looking for good audiobooks to listen to while I'm traveling.