THE RUBY IN THE SMOKE by Philip Pullman


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Set in 19th-century London, an echo of Collins' Moonstone--an orphaned 16-year-old unravels the mystery of her heritage and tracks down a fabulous Indian ruby, which has left murder and mayhem in its wake. Sally Lockhart is a competent, self-reliant heroine. She walks out on the oppressive relative who's been housing her, gets her lawyer to rearrange her investments to raise her meager income by 20 percent, and finds a new home and job with an attractive, talented, but unbusinesslike young photographer and his sister, using her precocious business acumen to rescue their floundering finances. Meanwhile, trying to decipher messages from her father, recently lost at sea in the Far East, she encounters mysterious Mr. Marchbanks, who gives her a long document, which is stolen before she can read it, and also various unsavory denizens of the East End, including villainous Mrs. Holland, who has trapped Matthew Bedwell, messenger from Lock, hart, by his addiction to opium. A whiff of opium smoke induces a vivid repetition of Sally's recurring nightmare, convincing her that it is actually memory; later, she deliberately breathes opium fumes in order to retrieve further pieces of the puzzle. After kidnappings and escapes, several murders, the finding and losing of the ruby and finding of a more moderate but useful inheritance hidden by Lockhart, everything is sorted out with surprisingly few loose ends, given the plot's many threads. An entertaining yarn, enlivened by humor and vivid characters, with the added historical interest of early photography and the evils of the opium trade. Sure to please readers of historical romances.

Pub Date: March 15th, 1987
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Knopf