The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman: A-

From the back cover:
The year is 1878, and the spirited Sally Lockhart, once again defying Victorian sensibilities, has gone into business for herself. When one of her clients loses a large sum of money in the unexpected collapse of a British shipping firm, Sally sets out to investigate. But as she delves deeper into the identity of the wealthy and elusive industrialist who owns the doomed company, she uncovers a plot so diabolical that it could eventually subvert the entire civilized world—and if Sally’s enemies have their way, she won’t live long enough to see it happen.

Philip Pullman continues the nerve-shattering story of his canny and courageous heroine in this second Sally Lockhart mystery.

Pullman made me cry like a great big sap again! And more than once, this time.

The Shadow in the North took place 6 years after the first book in the series, and the main characters underwent some changes in that time. Sally, awesomely, attended Cambridge and set up her own financial consulting business. Fred, the photographer, was personally much the same but had been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Sally to marry him, which led to several wonderful half-loving, half-antagonistic scenes between them. Jim, the erstwhile office boy, grew up into a young man with a taste for action and a way with the ladies.

By far, the characters were the best part about the book. I loved each of the three main characters, but found many of the random people encountered as part of the investigation to be interesting, as well. I was also quite fond of Sally’s dog, Chaka. Probably because Pullman took care to show how much the fiercely loyal and protective dog loved her. Okay, yes, this was one thing that made me cry.

I didn’t think the mystery was all that interesting, though. The question was more “how do these things fit together?” and largely dealt with industrial misdeeds. Perhaps that was the point, though. This case, which might seem rather mundane on the surface, ended up impacting the characters most profoundly. And since that is what’s most important to me, I still enjoyed the book very much.

A note on the audio edition: Anton Lesser was again amazing as narrator, but I think the book might actually have been censored. While referencing my paper copy, I noticed that one paragraph, prelude to an act of physical intimacy, was excised and that some lines of post-coital dialogue were altered. The omitted bits were kind of clumsily unsubtle, so it’s possible that Pullman himself did a rewrite at some point, but it does make one suspicious.

Did you enjoy this article? Consider supporting us.


  1. Philip Pullman remains one of my favorite authors. He started it with His Dark Materials (which was fantasy and at that time, the only genre I really enjoyed at the time) and he branched me out to other genres, showing me that it doesn’t mater what genre as long as the story and characters are good. I was thrilled to see that he wasn’t a “one-hit-wonder” type of author, but can write other genres really well, though it’s clear His Dark Materials was his brainchild, if that makes any sense….

    I’m not sure about the censorship, but I suppose it’s possible….It was audio after all….

  2. I’ve also read His Dark Materials and, while I enjoyed it while reading it, I think I actually prefer the Sally Lockhart novels. At least the second one—the third is a little dull so far.

    Regarding the missing bits, I probably should’ve clarified that I only read/listen to unabridged audio, so any sort of edit purely for length shouldn’t have happened.

Speak Your Mind