Friday, October 2, 2009

The Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pullman

The Ruby in the smoke is a Victorian tale with a Victorian style based to a great extent on the "penny dreadfuls" that one of the characters in the book reads. It is a very charming and engaging story that is difficult to put down.

Sally Lockhart is orphaned at 16 when her successful businessman father drowns when one of his ships is sunk. When Sally meets with the lawyer, the wealth seems to have mostly vanished, leaving Sally dependent on an unpleasant relative who helps herself to what Sally does have.

Sally runs away and finds a real family with a group of artistic and somewhat goofy but very lovable young people who help her solve the riddle left her by her father. The story is a Victorian maze of deceit, clues, friendship and villainy. In fact, the villain in the story is one of the best I've read in a long time.

While generally regarded as a Young Adult novel, anyone who enjoys a good mystery will enjoy this fast moving and beautifully written book.

The Ruby in the Smoke is the first of the Sally Lockhart Trilogy, which is another of those trilogies that has a fourth volume. That fourth volume, however, only includes Sally as a minor character. The library has this as a book on CD which is very well read by Anton Lesser. The series has also been made into films by PBS's Masterpiece Theater. I'm looking forward to finding DVDs of them to compare to the wonderfully written book.

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