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The Ruby in the Smoke

(Sally Lockhart #1)

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  24,938 ratings  ·  1,512 reviews
Sally is sixteen and uncommonly pretty. Her knowledge of English literature, French, history, art and music is non-existent, but she has a thorough grounding in military tactics, can run a business, ride like a Cossack and shoot straight with a pistol.

When her dear father is drowned in suspicious circumstances in the South China Sea, Sally is left to fend for herself, an o
Paperback, 230 pages
Published November 12th 1988 by Laurel Leaf Library (first published 1985)
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Average rating 3.77  · 
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 ·  24,938 ratings  ·  1,512 reviews

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mark monday
You know this smart and swiftly paced Victorian mystery is written for young adults, right? You know that doesn't mean dumbed down or raw, but rather that it should not be cluttered up with obtrusive literariness or head-scratching ephemera. You say that Pullman struggles with figurative language and that he doesn't find his own voice and I have to say... what exactly do you mean by 'figurative language' and how is he struggling with it? I saw no such struggle and I read a very specific voice. P ...more
Dec 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
i read this trilogy approximately 7.5 million times when i was younger. so good. and it taught me all i know about opium use. no kidding.
Dec 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Yes
Recommended to Larissa by: Jenna
With a subtitle of "A Sally Lockhart Mystery," one might expect the first installment of said series to be about a girl who restores pinched puppies to their rightful dowdy owners. And you wouldn't be more wrong! The Ruby in the Smoke introduces Sally, a self-made woman already at 16 years old, with an accidental death and a call to action. Her father has died under mysterious circumstances, and it's up to her (and eventually a merry, ragtag band of comrades including an equally quickwitted youn ...more
Dec 05, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I'm a big fan of Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, so I thought I would give this a try. Heck, I even liked the Golden Compass movie (two words--Daniel Craig). This is what librarians call "young adult" literature i.e. "for teenagers." As such, I find it a bit disturbing. I'm a far cry from a book-burning censor but this heroine is not my idea of a role model. Set in Victorian London, Sally Lockhart is an orphan (of course)who falls in with a Dickensian cast of characters to solve her father ...more
Hold your horses, everyone, the twenty-something nostalgia has set in. I’m noticing a couple of good, classic books for youngsters working their way back under my fictional radar in the last few months. I read Ruby in the Smoke when I was about twelve or thirteen, probably lured by the promise of Victorians, intrigue and lady-heroes who are good at accountancy. (I was that kind of child. My private games tended to involve a pencil and paper and the question “How would I run this as a self-suppo ...more
Simona B
Truth be told, I expected something more, but it was nonetheless a truly enjoyable read.
Dannii Elle
Actual rating 3.5/5 stars.

This is the first instalment in the Sally Lockhart quartet, which is a Victorian-era series following amateur sleuth, Sally Lockhart, as she attempts to solve the mysteries of London's dark underbelly, as well as those muddying her own past.

I really enjoyed putting my observation skills to the test, along with protagonist Sally, and getting an introduction to the other memorable characters that joined in with her detecting. This novel provided a pretty vast cast, but al
Sherwood Smith
Sally Lockhart is an orphan during the 1879s in London. She begins to discover the truth about her father, while being menaced by some very creepy characters.

I enjoyed this far more than the Golden Compass books, as the narrative wasn't marred by the high whine of Pullman's anti-Narnia axe being ground. The narrative voice dips into condescension here and there, but that actually fits period literature for younger readers, and the atmosphere of London's darker reaches was vivid and evocative.

Aug 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm a big fan of 'His Dark Materials' and 'Ruby in the Smoke' is set in a similar Victorian world, but without the steampunk or magical elements. It's a murder mystery where teenage orphan Sally Lockhart searches for her father's killer and tries to discover his connection to the Ruby of the title and the significance of his last warning to her - 'Beware the seven blessings.'

At around 200 pages it was a quick read. The writing is not quite as sophisticated as 'His Dark Materials', but is still
Christine PNW
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first stumbled on this as an audiobook, and decided to reread because I needed a book written by an author named "Philip" for a challenge. It was just as much fun as I remembered. Very different from Pullman's other, more famous series, this one is really a piece of Victorian pulp fiction. I will definitely be tracking down the sequels. ...more
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay this was one of those titles I wasn't quite sure what I was going to get - and I must admit I was quite surprised and rather pleased.

First of all lets get something out of the way - this is NOT His Dark Materials, this is a purely historical story set in and around London in the 1870s.

That said what you have here is a historical thriller set in the sprawling city of London which would not be out of place in the pages of a Dickensian story or a tale from Arthur Conan Doyle. (Yes they represe
Evelina | AvalinahsBooks
I was supposed to review this after we'd read the entire series, but since I'm buddy reading it with boyfriend, I might go gray before we finish the series :D

I suppose you could say I liked this book alright, but it doesn't hold a candle to The Big Series By The Genius That Is Pullman (you know which one I mean). The characters are written nicely, it reads fast and the intrigue is truly great. If I read this when I was a teen, I would have probably gobbled it up! But when you read something like
Dec 18, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2008
I started this book with great expectation having heard so much about Pullman and his His Dark Materials books. Besides it is set in Victorian London and I love those stories.

Have you ever heard the phrase The Seven Blessings?
That question causes a man to die of shock, and propels Sally Lockhart into a desperate adventure that will expose the deepest secrets of the corrupt and murderous opium trade.
Sally is sixteen when the story begins, orphaned and alone. She's had an unconventional educatio
J.G. Keely
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
I always find myself frustrated when authors can't seem to think of anything bad for their characters to overcome, and so they have to create some unbelievably vindictive and amoral villain just so there is some central conflict. The main character gets along with everyone and always finds satisfying solutions to any momentary setback.

The only problems such super-protagonists can't solve are those which they don't yet know the details of, so Pullman gives us a faux-mystery to keep the character
Jul 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The final outstanding category in my book bingo for the year was to read the first book by a favourite author. Looking over the books I have logged on my Goodreads account, Pullman was up there. I don’t have one favourite author but loved the 'Northern Lights' trilogy. Having read 'The Ruby in the Smoke' frequently when I was growing up, I thought it was high time to revisit that feeling of youthfulness!

I think this book, the start of a four-part series (reviews to be following soon), are an ide
Raúl Omar
I liked this book, yet, not as much as I expected. I was eager to read this book because I truly enjoyed the Shadow in the North some years ago, believing it was the first in the series and later I discovered there was a previous book.

In her first adventure, Sally finds herself in the middle of a quite complicated situation involving murder, deceit, ambition and danger, but she also meets good friends and starts to develop her character and discovers that she is a strong girl who can help others
Oct 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
I remember buying my copy of THE RUBY IN THE SMOKE at a B. Dalton bookstore in San Antonio, Texas. I liked the cover with the young girl in the cape holding something mysterious in a white handkerchief for a slightly creepy old woman to inspect. But, in the end, this was yet another example of a book I bought for the opening lines alone.
On a cold, fretful afternoon in early October, 1872, a hansom cab drew up outside the offices of Lockhart and Selby, Shipping Agents, in the financial heart of L
Dec 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rhiannon by: The January Pick - Forever Young Adult's Boston Bookclub
Philip Pullman might have the biggest pair of balls in YA Lit. In my first foray into Pullman's work, he killed God and encouraged teen sex to heal the world. In The Ruby In The Smoke: A Sally Lockhart Mystery, his teenage heroine is encouraged to use drugs to fill in the plot-holes of her life, and she shoots and kills an evil pirate, with a gun she had locked and loaded in her handbag. Lolz - love it!

The setting of The Ruby... is perhaps my favorite setting ever: Victorian London. The East End
DNF 58%

I had a really hard time trying to get into this book. What makes it more disappointing is that Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series is one of my all-time favourites. The book had all the right ingredients (a mystery set in Victorian London), but the end product did not add up.

The book follows Sally Lockhart, a sixteen year old girl, as she tries to uncover the mysteries surrounding her father's death. She also has to contend with individuals who have ulterior motives regardin
Apr 06, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This was well written and had impressively subtle world building and characterization. The mystery was a bit complicated, but not confusing. There was a huge tone shift from beginning, which felt almost like a cozy mystery, to the end, which felt bleak, gritty and hopeless.
Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
This is the first of the Sally Lockhart mystery series by Pullman, in which we see sixteen-year-old Sally Lockhart, a young lady who has skills very different from other young ladies of her time, faced with her father’s death at sea, and a mystery surrounding it and the company that he ran. The story opens with her visiting the offices of the shipping company, where the person she speaks to about the matter literally drops down dead. Soon enough, it is apparent that the mystery surrounding the f ...more
Originally reviewed on The Book Smugglers

Sally Lockhart is sixteen years old when she loses her father. The only child of a successful merchant with a business of importing goods from far-off destinations, Sally is devastated when she learns that her father's boat has capsized somewhere off the coast of Singapore, killing him and every other soul onboard. To make matters worse, her only living relation is a distant, scornful Aunt, and her inheritance is far less than what it should be, thanks to
Kerry Hunter
Mar 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, 2014
Throughout the year of 2014, I told myself I'd re-read some of my favourite books from my childhood. This was the first one I picked up as I remember being absolutely addicted to the series way back when. It was just as incredible as I remembered, maybe even more so thanks to finally catching the adult themes and jokes within the book within my adult eyes.

What do a man drowning at sea, a heart attack victim and a mysterious message all have in common? Little Sally Lockheart. That's all I'm going
First Second Books
When I read these books when I was a teenager, I don’t think I realized quite how crazy it was that Sally went off and became a financial advisor instead of staying and managing the photographic studio. My general reaction to her (I thought) misguided decision to pursue the life of finance was, ‘well, that’s stupid and boring.’ (It’s possible that I was a very young teenager at the time.) Re-reading these, it’s fascinating to see how Pullman presents Sally’s life in a very male-dominated world, ...more
This is not a bad book, but it did not really stir my imagination. It was ok, but I found it a bit bland.

Sally is likeable enough and overall the characters are fine, but as a villain I just did not find Mrs Holland that credible. I did not find the mystery in this book all that interesting and I found myself just wanting to finish this book without really caring that much about what happened, which is a shame.

Having said that, it is not badly written and I am sure many people will enjoy this bo
Viv JM
I thought this was a rather smashing YA historical mystery, with a marvellous young female protagonist and some great Dickensian villains. The audio was exceptionally well narrated by Anton Lesser, so would definitely recommend that format.

I read this for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge task to read "The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series."
This was the first Pullman book I read, and I loved it. I'm not sure how realistic a woman like Sally is in Victorian times, but I thought she was awesome anyway. And I had such a crush on Fred. ...more
Lance Greenfield
Apr 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first Sally Lockhart story that I have read, and it probably won't be the last.

In the beginning, it was difficult for me to believe in the strength and forthrightness of this sixteen year old. She shows maturity well beyond her years. However, the more that I followed Sally around the streets of London, the more convincing she was, and the more that I lived her dangerous adventures alongside her.

There are some very kind and generous characters in this book, and they form strong allia
Michael Ames
Nov 18, 2008 rated it liked it
This book is a refreshing departure for Philip Pullman, for those of us who are only acquainted with His Dark Materials. It's a great mystery, immediately engaging with authentic, realistic characters and settings. I'd recommend it for adults and mature teenagers with a taste for dark mystery. I'll read the next one.

In fact, the only reason I can't give this book four stars is that parents need to be very cautious about the age and emotional maturity of children who read it. The Ruby in the Sm
Aug 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dead-tree
Read this quite a few years ago. I liked it, but the ending let me down a bit. The fact that the heroine huffs opium seemed edgy at the time. It was a cool adventure tale and I enjoyed it. After attempting and DNFing His Dark Materials, I think of Pullman as a pretty overrated author. But this one was enjoyable enough.
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Addicted to YA: Sally Lockhart 1 18 Apr 04, 2018 10:05AM  
The Ruby in Smoke 5 29 Nov 20, 2016 04:38AM  
finishing the series 2 13 Aug 21, 2015 03:08AM  
The Ruby in Smoke 1 13 Apr 18, 2014 07:13PM  
The Most Awesome ...: Sally Lockhart 1 7 Jan 12, 2013 04:16PM  

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As a passionate believer in the democracy of reading, I don't think it's the task of the author of a book to tell the reader what it means.

The meaning of a story emerges in the meeting between the words on the page and the thoughts in the reader's mind. So when people ask me what I meant by this story, or what was the message I was trying to convey in that one, I have to explain that I'm not going

Other books in the series

Sally Lockhart (4 books)
  • The Shadow in the North (Sally Lockhart, #2)
  • The Tiger in the Well (Sally Lockhart, #3)
  • The Tin Princess (Sally Lockhart, #4)

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196 likes · 49 comments
“On a cold, fretful afternoon in early October, 1872, a hansom cab drew up outside the offices of Lockhart and Selby, Shipping Agents, in the financial heart of London, and a young girl got out and paid the driver.

She was a person of sixteen or so--alone, and uncommonly pretty. She was slender and pale, and dressed in mourning, with a black bonnet under which she tucked back a straying twist of blond hair that the wind had teased loose. She had unusually dark brown eyes for one so fair. Her name was Sally Lockhart; and within fifteen minutes, she was going to kill a man.”
“Her upbringing had given her an independence of mind that made her more like a girl of today than one of her own time - which was why she had walked out, and why she was not daunted by the prospect of being alone.” 11 likes
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