The Ruby in the Smoke, Philip Pullman

The Ruby in the Smoke: A Sally Lockhart MysteryIt figures the first day of my winter break I would develop a cold. I have been lying in bed, willing myself to recover by Christmas (and thanking myself for finishing the shopping relatively early for a change). Of course, it gave me plenty of time to read today, so I decided to finish Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke.

This novel is the first of the Sally Lockhart trilogy. Sally Lockhart’s father has died under mysterious circumstances, and all she has to go on is the warning “Beware the Seven Blessings.” The first person she asks about the phrase dies of fright. Sally comes face-to-face with the seamy underbelly of Victorian London—opium dens, ruffians, and sooty, Dickensian waifs. She meets a photographer who agrees to help her, but he, like Sally, doesn’t know exactly what he’s gotten himself into.

I think Pullman evokes the setting of Victorian London well. The story is fast-paced and action-packed. Sally and the other characters, especially Jim, are likable enough. For some reason I can’t put my finger on, however, this book just didn’t grab me. I had no trouble putting it down on occasion, and I had to force myself through it a bit. I can’t figure out why because it has all the elements I like in a story, from setting to characters and plot, but it just didn’t interest me. I probably won’t read the other two novels in the series. You know, I tried to pick up The Golden Compass and felt the same way—it has all the elements I like in a story, too, and I never could get into it.

Rating: ★★★☆☆