I found this gem at the library sale and grabbed it immediately. I had come across it several times whilst researching good books for teenage readers, plus I loved Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series.
The Ruby in the Smoke, the first in a series around heroine Sally Lockhart is very different – a mystery set in Victorian England. Sally’s father has passed away on one of his ships and somehow his share in the broad shipping empire has not passed to Sally. Destitute, Sally’s life looks bleak. But she senses a mystery. All she knows is the the phrase – The Seven Blessings. A phrase so deadly it was enough to kill a man. Spurred on by mysterious letters and a wily arch-nemesis, Sally searches for a place to be, as well as a myserious and cursed Ruby supposedly left to her from her father.
It’s a nice story, but what really makes it work is the novel’s fantastic sense of place. You can really see the shabby streets and smoky opium dens of the time.
Not quite engaging enough to have me reaching for the next book in the series in a hurry, but I have added the British film adaptation starring Billy Piper to my watch-list.