The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman: B+

From the back cover:
“Beware the seven blessings…”

When she first utters these words, sixteen-year-old Sally Lockhart doesn’t know their meaning. But when an employee of her late father hears them, he dies of fear. Thus begins Sally’s terrifying journey into the seamy underworld of Victorian London, in search of clues that will solve the puzzle of her father’s death. Pursued by villains and cutthroats at every turn, she at last uncovers two dark mysteries. One involves the opium trade; the other, a stolen ruby of enormous value. Sally soon learns that she is the key to both—and that it’s worth her very life to find out why.

This made me cry, dangit. I swear, I am such a sucker for kind fathers. It’s ridiculous.

Anyway, it took me a little while to get into this book, because there were a few mysteries going on simultaneously and nothing really made sense for a couple of chapters. Sally’s coolness as a character really only emerged once she’d left the care of a distant relation and come to live with a photographer and his sister. Their business was in financial straits, and she delighted in devising ways to get it back on track. I loved that she was a competent girl who excelled at bookkeeping and numbers. The supporting cast were also lively and fun, and I snickered more than once.

Anton Lesser narrated the audiobook and he was fabulous. He had distinct voices for each character, and I’ve never heard a man achieve such a realistic voice for a woman as he did for Mrs. Holland. It really added a lot to the experience.

The actual mystery was a little too Holmesian for my taste, what with secret societies, sparkly jewels, and ties to the Mysterious East. I also didn’t like the use of opium as a means to impart revelations upon the heroine. Still, I enjoyed it well enough to continue on with the series. The library has two more narrated by Lesser, so I will definitely be seeking those out.

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