Fans of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series will find The Ruby in the Smoke very different, but in many ways just as pleasurable to read. It opens with sixteen-year-old Sally Lockhart visiting her deceased father’s shipping firm and accidentally causing one of his associates to die of a heart-attack when she ask him if he knows of the Seven Blessings. The phrase was on a piece of paper dictated by her father before his death and sent to her in secret.
Fearing that her life is in danger, Sally seeks to unravel the mystery of why her father died, who would like to see her dead, and where to find the famed ruby of an Indian maharajah. Set in Victorian London, The Ruby in the Smoke takes the reader into the dark underworld of the times, where opium dens, disreputable boarding houses and seedy characters abound, while poverty forces many into a life of crime. Pullman keeps us guessing right up until the end, when the facts of several mysteries building during the story are revealed.