The Ruby in the Smoke - Philip Pullman

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The Ruby in the Smoke - Philip Pullman

Sally Lockhart's father was an unconventional man who preferred to teach his daughter how to run a business and shoot a pistol, rather than school her...

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Review of "The Ruby in the Smoke - Philip Pullman"

published 04/08/2008 | rosieemma91
Member since : 28/07/2008
Reviews : 40
Members who trust : 1
About me :
Pro Fast paced, authentic and gripping.
Cons Complicated plot requires time and patience to unravel
very helpful
Would you read it again?

"An excellent piece of Victorian drama"

Original Cover

Original Cover

This is the first of the series of Sally Lockhart books Philip Pullman has written.

The cover shown with the description is the newer one which was released after the TV adaptation was aired on the BBC. It stars Billie Piper as Sally and was a massive success, hence the new bookcover. However, I will include a picture of the more common old cover with this review so you don't miss it in the shops!!

The original cover is in keeping with the book's Victorian setting and is in an old, deep red colour with an illustration of two men, one a gentleman and one a rougher looking man, preparing for a fight. This illustration is by David Hopkins. Also on the original cover is the name of the author and the book (obviously!) along with the phrase 'A GRIPPING MYSTERY FROM THE DEPTHS OF VICTORIAN LONDON' which I believe sums up this book pretty accurately. There is also a positive review from the Observer.

The story itself is following Sally Lockhart, an orphan who until recently had lived with her Father, who was a shipping agent. However, his ship went missing at sea and all aboard are presumed dead, Sally is forced to go and live with her Aunt. Yet when a note written by her Father before his death arrives for her, Sally embarks on an adventure.

She knows only that she must find a man named Marchbanks and that she should be wary of the seven blessings. However she has no idea what this badly written, nonsensical note could mean, and is forced to do some detective work.

It leads her to the shipping company where her father was a partner and she meets with Mr Higgs, the company secretary. When she mentions the seven blessings, Mr Higgs has a heat attack and drops down dead. It is then that Sally realises she is in for a lot more than she had ever imagined.

As with any story, there is a bad guy, or in this case, bad lady, and she comes in the form of old Mrs Holland. I have to be honest, she scared me silly! Mrs Holland is the kind of dangerous person who you don't know s dangerous until it's too late. Despite her age and often seemingly pleasant conversation, Mrs Holland is ruthless and will do anything to fnd an object from her past. An object which she insists is hers by rights....

The mystery soon unravels. Sally finds Major Marchbanks, only for him to die soon after, but not without leaving her a diary which talks of
a ruby from Agrapur which belonged to a Maharajah. Although this as yet means little to Sally, we are reassured that it is exactly what Mrs Holland is looking for. However, the diary is stolen and Sally is let with only the final page of it, and that alone makes no sense.

Along the way, Sally makes friends with photographer Frederick Garland and his sister Rosa, and she comes to work at their shop for her upkeep, as her father left her no money.

Fred and Rosa, along with their employee Trembler, try to help Sally solve the mystery and escape the clutches of Mrs Holland.

We also meet young Adelaide, the girl who Mrs Holland forces to serve her, and constantly threatens to bury in the back yard like the last serving girl if she doesn't do as she's told.

I won't say anymore, as it may well ruin the story for anyone considering buying it, but it is a great book which really tested me as it's full of knowledge that is cunningly given to you by the author in the form of the story. It takes patience, and perhaps a couple of reads before you fully understand all the twists and turns of the plot - but then aren't all the best books one you can read several times and still enjoy it as if it was he first?

I would recommend it to buyers for it's authentic Victorian setting, it's likeable (and dislikable) characters and it's ability to have you hooked from page one.

UK RRP : 5.99
Publisher : Scholastic
Pages: 209

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Comments on this review

  • jeaniecz published 04/08/2008
    Great review!
  • wolfatgoogle published 04/08/2008
    Another good review. I haven't read this one, although I loved the Northern Lights trilogy. Did you watch the "Golden Compass" movie? I thought it was done very well, although the second book was my personal favourite of the three.
  • manlybeach published 04/08/2008
    Well reviewed! xx
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Product Information : The Ruby in the Smoke - Philip Pullman

Manufacturer's product description

Sally Lockhart's father was an unconventional man who preferred to teach his daughter how to run a business and shoot a pistol, rather than school her in the social graces expected of a young lady in Victorian times. When he dies, Sally receives a letter which leads her into a dangerous mystery.

Product Details

Type: Fiction

Genre: Children's

Title: The Ruby in the Smoke

Author: Philip Pullman

Publisher: Scholastic

Number of Pages: 240

Edition: Paperback

Age: Ages 9-11

ISBN: 014036627X; 0394988264; 0844672300


Listed on Ciao since: 14/09/2007