By Philip Pullman
I've read the His Dark Materials trilogy by Pullman, and while I enjoyed them on the whole, I kind of felt they were a bit preachy. Especially by the end. Because of this, I've never really looked into any of his other books, then I read this review by Fyrefly, and my library just purchased all three books in the trilogy, so I decided to give the trilogy a try.
The Ruby in the Smoke is the first book in the series where we are introduced to 16 year old Sally, whose father has just passed away and who has received a cryptic note about his death. When she tries to find out more about her father's dealings her life is threatened. Eventually, she teams up with a budding photographer, Fredrick, and an errand boy who used to work for her father, Jim (my favorite character in the series), and attempts to find out who the Seven Sisters are and what exactly happened on the ship that sunk, killing her father.
I enjoyed this book from the start. I found Sally's character a bit hard to accept, this was Victorian England afterall. But, she really was written in a believable way, and she reminds me a lot of Mary Russell, another female detective that won't stand for the bounds set by males in her society. The ending was not exactly what I had expected, but it worked, and I enjoyed it. I did kind of wish that the reader had been given enough information to really solve the crime for themselves, but it was a fun read.
4 out of 5 stars
There will be some SPOILERS to the previous book in the summary paragraph of the next two books. The review bit (the second paragraph) shouldn't contain any spoilers though.
The Shadow in the North, is the next book and is set several years (maybe 6 or 7?) after the first. Sally is running a successful investment firm when she is approached by one of her clients who has lost her money due to some bad advice from Sally. Sally decides to look into what caused the collapse of the company and soon finds her livelyhood threatened. Meanwhile, Fredrick, who has given up photography to be a full-time detective, and Jim are trying to help a magician (whose name I can't remember!) who is on the run from some thugs because he saw in a vision that the leader of the thugs killed a man. These two stories end up getting weaved together, and Fred and Sally team up to save her reputation and the life of the (cowardly) stage magician.
This book is a bit longer, and I found a bit harder to get through. Not painful, but it just wasn't as interesting. The tension between Fred and Sally got REALLY old. I have no idea why she was being such a twit, but I guess it helped keep the story moving (or something). Like the last one, the reader really isn't given all the clues that they need in order to solve the crime themselves, but I felt like I had an idea of how it would come together and that was nice. Oh, and I pretty much hated the ending. Start pretty huge SPOILER: Fredrick's death just seemed like a ploy, and her insuing pregnancy bothered me. It just seemed unneccessary. End pretty huge SPOILER.
3.5 out of 5 stars
The Tiger in the Well, is the final book in the trilogy. It is set about two and a half years after the second and Sally is living happily with her daughter, Harriet. One day out of the blue, she is served with papers demanding a divorce from her "husband" and full custody of Harriet. Sally knows she's never been married, but due to her incompetant lawyer (who thinks it's all Sally's fault for getting pregnant outside of marriage) she loses the court case and goes underground to figure out exactly who is out to ruin her life.
Definatley the best in the series. It is also the longest. I had figured out who the bad guy was very early on, and it was a little frustrating that Sally seemed so clueless. However, once she "admits to herself" who is really after her and the climax begins it was really fun watching how everything came together. I also really liked the side story that Sally is told about the tiger in the well. I missed the presense of Fredrick and Jim in this one (Goldman didn't do much for me), and I was happy when Jim showed up at the very end to help save the day.
4 out of 5 stars
Overall, I would highly recommend this series to mystery readers, especially fans of Laurie King's Mary Russell series.