Winter is a great time to curl up with a good mystery, and lately I’ve been re-listening to The Ruby in the Smoke, the first suspenseful installment in the Sally Lockhart trilogy by Philip Pullman.
Orphaned in 1872 following the suspicious death of her father at sea, Sally Lockhart visits her father's firm to inquire about something called “the seven blessings”. The results are startling, and she consequently gets drawn into a deadly mystery involving a ruby and the opium trade. Not one to shy away from danger (her widowed father had raised her to shoot like a man, rather than dance like a lady), Sally is determined to get to the bottom everything, even if it means visiting the underworld of Victorian London. In the process, she makes a few very good friends, but also encounters one ruthless enemy in the form of Mrs. Holland, the manager of a lodging house in Hangman’s Wharf (an ominous name if ever there was one).
Although the print version of this title is shelved in our Teen collection, it is certainly something that adults can enjoy, and Anton Lesser’s narration of the audio version, available in different formats, is most entertaining. He switches easily from one distinctive character's voice to the next, and his portrayal of the sinister Mrs. Holland is chilling. I never knew that an old lady could sound so scary!