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The Ruby in the Smoke
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Pullman's Victorian melodrama boasts a sufficiency of mystery, murder and hairbreadth escapes involving a big cast of honest and ignoble types. ``On a cold, fretful afternoon in early October 1872,'' the story begins, young Sally Lockhart is in London where she tries to find out the meaning of ``the Seven Blessings.'' The phrase appears in a message from her recently deceased father, drowned in the South China Sea. When a colleague of her father hears the words, he dies instantly of a heart attack. That event marks the start of crises that go on with no let-up in the colorful Dickensian tale. Sally's legacy, supposedly a fantastic ruby, is nowhere to be found. A gang of cutthroats pursue the girl and her loyal allies, as the story sweeps on to a resounding close. (12-up)

Gr 7 Up-The first volume in Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart series (Random, pap. 1988) offers listeners an exemplary experience with classic melodrama. Sixteen-year-old Sally was orphaned when her father's investigation of illicit activities in his trading company led to his death halfway around the world from their home in 19th century London. When mysterious messages lead Sally to his old offices and, apparently, involve her in frightening a staff member there literally to death, she realizes that she needs to explore more fully what led to Lockhart's death and take matters of her present living conditions into hand. With the assistance of a young photographer and his bohemian household, the information provided by an opium addicted sailor and his vicious landlady, and the energetic guidance of the messenger boy at her father's old workplace, Sally uncovers not only the reasons for her father's death but the truth about her own parentage. Shakespearean actor Anton Lesser creates a host of accents and personalities to match this diverse cast of characters. Not only is this a rip-roaring mystery, but the insights offered on Victorian society and technology will intrigue both newcomers to historical fiction and those who thought Dickens would have the ultimate word on representing the era in fiction.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"A rip-roaring adventure story filled with cutthroat villains, dastardly deeds, sleazy opium dens, filthy London slums, and a delightful heroine...Splendid descriptions, plot twists and turns, and understated humor engage readers in this tale of murder, mayhem, and mystery."--School Library Journal (starred review)
" A rip-roaring adventure story filled with cutthroat villains, dastardly deeds, sleazy opium dens, filthy London slums, and a delightful heroine...Splendid descriptions, plot twists and turns, and understated humor engage readers in this tale of murder, mayhem, and mystery." --School Library Journal (starred review)

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