The Ruby in the Smoke

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Ruby in the Smoke
Author: Philip Pullman
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (September 9, 2008)


"Her name was Sally Lockhart; and within fifteen minutes, she was going to kill a man." Philip Pullman begins his Sally Lockhart trilogy with a bang in The Ruby in the Smoke--a fast-paced, finely crafted thriller set in a rogue- and scalawag-ridden Victorian London. His 16-year-old heroine has no time for the usual trials of adolescence: her father has been murdered, and she needs to find out how and why. But everywhere she turns, she encounters new scoundrels and secrets. Why do the mere words "seven blessings" cause one man to keel over and die at their utterance? Who has possession of the rare, stolen ruby? And what does the opium trade have to do with it?

As our determined and intelligent sleuth sets her mind to unraveling these dark mysteries, she learns how embroiled she is in the whole affair. As riveting and witty as the sensational "penny dreadfuls" of Victorian England (but thousands of times better written), Pullman's trilogy (including The Shadow in the North and The Tiger in the Well) will have readers on the edges of their seats. Ruby is an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. (Ages 12 and older)


Let me begin by saying that I have not read this book. Shocking - I know!

I'll fully establish by "nerdiness" by admitting that I saw the televised BBC version of this book on Masterpiece Mysteries this weekend on PBS - Sally Lockhart Mysteries - Ruby In the Smoke

There are very few translations from book to movie/TV that I like (the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice starring Firth and Ehle being my absolute fave - ever! The others, not so much). Perhaps once I've read the original Pullman book (I'm looking forward to reading the entire series!), I may not find this BBC adaptation as likable. But, until that time, allow me to rave about it.

I just loved it! It's one of those by-gone era kind of mysteries involving a fabulous but deadly ruby, opium trade, mysterious pasts and most importantly, a gorgeous, young and intrepid amateur sleuth in the form of Sally Lockhart. It kind of reminded me of the over-the-top mysteries and dazzlingly daring adventures of the kind I devoured growing up. I loved those and until I saw this adaptation, I had forgotten quite how much I liked them and that I still do!

Initially I didn't quite like the actress playing Sally's role, but she grew on me and by the end I was rooting for her and her spunkiness. But it's the female villain - mean old Mrs. Holland - that I liked the best. Portrayed excellently by Julie Walters (the same lady who plays Mrs.Weasley in the Harry Potter movies), the character becomes a memorable one. The way she plays with her false teeth is just plain terrifying, and the swift deadliness lurking just beneath her sweet, gentle-old exterior is a contrast that works to great effect. Other characters have played their roles well.

Thanks to my son waking up with a nightmare just as it was all winding up meant that I had to miss some crucial revelations, but this Wikipedia entry helped fill in the blanks. And it also showed how the screen adaptation is overall faithful to the story, barring a few instances. (I do wonder if Adelaide will ever be found.)

I look forward to seeing the next adaptation in this Sally Lockhart series - The Shadow in the North which, I believe, will be airing next weekend.


The Sally Lockhart Quartet comprises of:

   1. The Ruby in the Smoke
   2. The Shadow in the North
   3. The Tiger in the Well
   4. The Tin Princess

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4 People said

  1. I love The Tin Princess. It's inspiring,


  2. Thanks for the recommendation. I have the whole series on my TBB list now!

  3. I thought the BBC adaptation was really well done. I read the books a while ago, so I can't be sure about accuracy, but I didn't see any glaring departures from the book. Hope you find the books and enjoy them all!

  4. I missed the second one. Did anyone manage to see it? How was it?


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