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.

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.
The Ruby in the Smoke ~
My review of
Once Upon a Time in the North