Genre: Young-adult fiction, mystery
Key Stage: KS3
Ruby in the Smoke, Philip Pullman (1985)
Plot: The young Sally Lockhart lived a normal life until her father died a horrible death at sea. She consequently finds herself in the cold, grimy streets of the East End, taken in by Mrs Rees, a horrible mean woman. One day, a note arrives at her doorstep, and as she investigates, she meets with the ugly fate of death itself. Who must she trust and who must she stay away from?
‘She did not move. Nor did she scream or faint; her only actions were to draw back the hem of her dress from where it brushed the shiny dome of his skull and to breathe deeply, several times, with her eyes shut. Her father had taught her this as a remedy for panic. He had taught her well; it worked.‘
Positives: This book has so many positives! Namely, the wonderful, atmospheric detail of the book enables the reader to really visualise characters and setting and unpick character motivation. Another great positive is the fact of the storyline: is so mind-boggling that you’ll be up reading more than you’ve read in your life! It’s such an addictive book, and one that explores what life was like during the Victorian era for some people.
Negatives: This book does have some moments of violence but they are in-keeping with the plot.
If you like this book you might like: Ruby in the Smoke is the first of the Sally Lockhart Quartet. It is followed by The Shadow in the North, The Tiger in the Well and The Tin Princess. If you are a fan of Pullman, be sure to read His Dark Materials trilogy: Northern Lights, The Amber Spyglass and The Subtle Knife!
Reviewer: Mahdi Amin