Book Review: The Ruby in the Smoke (Sally Lockhart #1) by Philip Pullman

27 Dec

rubyinthesmokeWhen Sally’s father dies in what appears to be a simple boat accident, she receives a mysterious letter from someone unknown mentioning something called “The Seven Blessings.” But when she mentions that to one of her father’s former coworkers, he drops dead. Sally finds herself in the middle of a mystery she has to solve, but there are people working against her, such as the dangerous Mrs. Holland and her cronies. With the help of a photographer, an actress, and an opium addict, Sally must find the ruby at the center of it all before it’s too late.

I’ve been wanting to read this for a while as Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials is among my favorite series of all time. It took me a couple of tries, honestly, because the beginning of the book was a bit “dense” for my mood. The narration is a different style and jumps from person to person, making it difficult at times to keep up with who’s who and what’s going on.

That said, it’s Philip Pullman we’re talking about, so the writing itself is wonderful. Brilliant descriptions that take you back in time to an opium-rich London. Dialogue that changes in style depending on the person speaking. Characters who are engaging, likable (or not), and with motive. It all adds up to a pretty enjoyable read.


My biggest issue, once I got used to the narrative style, was the ending. It just wasn’t satisfying. It felt, in fact, quite rushed. Maybe I’m missing something–but after all that work setting up this mystery and giving Sally clues to find the ruby, she comes to the realization that she really MUST find the ruby and Rosa’s like, “Oh, don’t worry, Jim found it ages ago, I was going to tell you…”

WHAT? After all that, Sally didn’t get the satisfaction of finding out where this thing was for herself? And figuring out other things based on the opium dream of events that happened when she was a baby… I’m sorry, but it all seemed a bit of a cop-out. I had higher expectations.

That said, I WILL likely be reading the second book in the series with the hope that it’s a bit better than the first. It’s a worthwhile read particularly from a writer’s standpoint (Philip Pullman can do some awesome things with words!) but be prepared for an unsatisfying ending.


One Response to “Book Review: The Ruby in the Smoke (Sally Lockhart #1) by Philip Pullman”


  1. 2014: A Year of Reading in Review | More Than One Page - December 31, 2014

    […] The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman *** […]

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