Phillip Pullman writes a Victorian mystery.

What, you need me to tell you more?

Sally’s father, a shipping agent, died on a recent shipwreck. Shortly thereafter, she receives a very odd, poorly-spelled, and most distressing note containing a remarkably vague warning. Naturally, being a spunky heroine¹, Sally sets out to learn the truth of the note, and, just as naturally, certain adventures, mysteries, dangers, and steps towards self-actualization follow.

As we’ve come to expect, Pullman writes an excellent yarn. It has none of the scope and grandeur of the His Dark Material books², but that’s okay; it’s well-written and engaging, and even if we’ve gotten used to spunky female characters, Sally is appealing, strong without being invulnerable or over-perfect. And sometimes, you just need a couple hours with a girl detective finding her way in a simpler time. Or at least, sometimes that’s what I need.

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¹I almost called her unconventional, but then I remembered that spunky heroines have their own convention. It’s just rarely recognized by the supporting characters.

²What were they thinking when they created a series title beginning with a pronoun? There’s no graceful way to refer to them, as both “The His…” and “A His…” sound awful. Series names should either come with a definite article (i.e., The Baroque Cycle) or be able to have one easily appended (i.e., Circle of Magic easily becomes the Circle of Magic books). Anyway.
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The Ruby in the Smoke ~
My review of
Once Upon a Time in the North

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