cover image Ruby in the Smoke

Ruby in the Smoke

Philip Pullman. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $11.95 (230pp) ISBN 978-0-394-88826-2

Pullman's Victorian melodrama boasts a sufficiency of mystery, murder and hairbreadth escapes involving a big cast of honest and ignoble types. ""On a cold, fretful afternoon in early October 1872,'' the story begins, young Sally Lockhart is in London where she tries to find out the meaning of ``the Seven Blessings.'' The phrase appears in a message from her recently deceased father, drowned in the South China Sea. When a colleague of her father hears the words, he dies instantly of a heart attack. That event marks the start of crises that go on with no let-up in the colorful Dickensian tale. Sally's legacy, supposedly a fantastic ruby, is nowhere to be found. A gang of cutthroats pursue the girl and her loyal allies, as the story sweeps on to a resounding close. (12-up)