Author: Philip Pullman
Finished on: 1 June 2016
Where did I get this book: Borrowed from a friend at work
This book is brilliant. Set in the dark underbelly of criminal and corrupt Victorian London, but with plot strands stretching as far as the opium trade in China, The Ruby In The Smoke is a great old-fashioned tale of adventure, mystery, excitement and derring-do.
I wish people still wrote books like this for adults. Maybe they do, but if so I don’t know about them. I imagine if Stevenson and Dumas were writing today, they would have to write for children and young adults. It seems like as grown-ups we’re not supposed to lose ourselves in escapist, brilliantly over-the-top plots anymore.
There are three more of these delicious Sally Lockhart mysteries by Pullman, and I’ve been unable to resist ordering the rest of them from the library. I know that contravenes the book-buying ban rules. But sorry, rules or no rules this story is so much my cup of tea it’s like Pullman handed me an extra stewed, extra hot, strong Assam with just a splash of milk, hairs on your chest brew. I have to read the next three.
The cast of characters is fantastic, from the extraordinary villain Mrs Holland wearing her dead husband’s grotesque old false teeth she stole from his mouth as they were closing the coffin, to Jim the foul-mouthed penny dreadful addict that gets all his crime-fighting nous from melodramatic fiction (seems entirely sensible to me), to our fantastic hero Sally Lockhart herself. I can’t wait to meet them again. Stevenson and Dumas are two of my favourite writers of all time, and with The Ruby In The Smoke, Pullman is casting himself as a strong contender for being their worthy successor.