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The Ruby in the Smoke: A Sally Lockhart Mystery Paperback – September 9, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"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) --Karin Snelson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Pullman's Victorian melodrama boasts a sufficiency of mystery, murder and hairbreadth escapes involving a big cast of honest and ignoble types. "On a cold, fretful afternoon in early October 1872," the story begins, young Sally Lockhart is in London where she tries to find out the meaning of "the Seven Blessings." The phrase appears in a message from her recently deceased father, drowned in the South China Sea. When a colleague of her father hears the words, he dies instantly of a heart attack. That event marks the start of crises that go on with no let-up in the colorful Dickensian tale. Sally's legacy, supposedly a fantastic ruby, is nowhere to be found. A gang of cutthroats pursue the girl and her loyal allies, as the story sweeps on to a resounding close.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Series: Sally Lockhart
  • Paperback: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Ember; Reprint edition (September 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037584516X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375845161
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (185 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #392,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 94 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 17, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It's been nearly ten years since I first read this book... I'm 22 now, and it remains one of my favorites. Pullman tells the story of a desperate teenage girl's search for the truth about her father's death without pulling any punches or talking down to his audience (which is probably between the ages of twelve and fifteen or so); there are allusions to sex and violence, but they are not explicitly descriptive. The novel's mystery is intricate and pervasive, but almost as important to its texture is the look we are given at how several lonely and unhappy people become a family for each other, even in the face of danger and loss. Sally Lockhart is a wonderful protofeminist heroine, whose bravery, intelligence, and independence should inspire most readers; the secondary characters, such as Fred and Jim, are charming and more than up to the challenge of being Sally's associates. The conclusion is stunning, and readers who enjoy this novel will want to read the other books about Sally and her friends (Shadow in the North is particularly heartrending). I find the Sally books generally more emotionally-involving than _His Dark Materials_, but the high quality of the writing remains constant. I still make a point of picking up Pullman's newest books when they come out, and _The Ruby in the Smoke_ is the book that started it all.
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59 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Zack Davisson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 10, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
After being blown away by "His Dark Materials," I went questing for more books by Philip Pullman. I found Sally Lockhart.
"Ruby in the Smoke" is a very different style of book. There is no fantasy in this series, no armored bears or magical implements. This is straight historical mystery, set in England of 1872. Sally Lockhart is our young hero. She is an amazingly well-rounded character, at times a plucky, spirited lass, at times a shy young woman. She is looking for facts about the death or her Father. Someone else is looking for her, and her connection to the lost Ruby of Agrapar.
While this book does not have the sense of wonder and captivation of "His Dark Materials," it does posses it's own strengths. Pullman has gone very deep into accuracy and social relevance with this trilogy. The story is as much Sally Lockhart's battle with women's conventions of the time, as it is with the villains of the series. The story is very dark, and the opium trade and the Indian Mutiny are all major story points. (In fact, anyone taking up "Ruby in the Smoke" would do well to review this historical events.)
A very good, intelligent book. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 9, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This trilogy is the story of Sally Lockhart, a young woman who overcomes obstacles and enemies to build a life in Victorian England, where young ladies should be seen and not heard. In this book, she discovers the true story of who her father is, and how her mother died. She will also hunt for a fabulous ruby, and travel through the lower depths of the East End of London.
I think that this is the best of this trilogy, although the last book is very good. The mystery is very compelling, and Pullman is brilliant at drawing you into the world of Victorian England. This will have you on the edge of your seat! Sally Lockhart is an attractive character, and takes everything that is thrown at her by Pullman in good heart. I definitely wanted to read the whole series after this one.
I came to this story after The Golden Compass and the Subtle Knife. I think that His Dark Materials is much richer and deeper than this series, but maybe the Sally Lockhart books are easier for a younger audience to read. They are set in a more familiar world, and the stories do not interwind. At the same time, Philip Pullman is a cut above most children's storytellers, as his characters and stories are more original and modern - Sally is definitely a feminist heroine. Will definitely keep this one for my daughter to read.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By grahamer on August 23, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I admit I am biased! Philip Pullman writes books that are readable, entertaining, educational and, sometimes, controversial. This one fits easily into the first three categories. In later books (his Dark Materials Trilogy) Pullman becomes more controversial and has opened himself up to criticism from various religious extremists who see his novels as an attack on thier own personal beliefs. The Ruby in The Smoke is NOT controversial (though doubtless some fundamentalists who have found fault with his later books will now be trolling through his earlier writing to try and find a politically-incorrect sentence they don't agree with and give it the big thumbs down).
The heroine is 16 year-old Sally Lockhart and she lives in Victorian London. Her father has been murdered and her life is about to be turned upside down by a legacy she doesn't want. Pullman does an excellent job of describing Victorian London (the educational concept). He also makes an exceptional job of plotting and holding the reader's attention (the entertainment). In terms of writing, his style is clear, often amusing, and he has the ability to draw settings in just a few brief words (the readability).
Pullman's London is full or rogues and scoundrels and vagabonds and neer-do-wells. And it seems they're all on the side of the opium dealers (who really DID exist in Victorian London). But Sally Lockhart draws loyalty from some borderline characters of her her own. People who are street-wise, and know how to help her through her problems.
If you've not yet read a Philip Pullman book, start with this one and see how you get on. They're a lot of fun and they're extraordinarily well written.
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