If you’ve never encountered the book before, reading it is like stumbling across a lost treasure.
First published in 1985, a decade before The Golden Compass ever saw the light of day, Philip Pullman’s mystery series featuring 16 year old Sally Lockhart provides a glimpse at a sort of proto-Lyra Belacqua.
The Ruby in the Smoke (Knopf) was the first of four Sally Lockhart Mysteries, a series set in Victorian London. In the first book, Sally is trying to solve the mystery of her father’s death. Pullman aficionados will know that all of the Sally Lockhart books were well received when they were first published, and they have never been out of print. However, if you weren’t at the time paying close attention to children’s literature, it would have been possible to miss them as it would be another decade before Pullman became really well known after his Dark Materials trilogy belted him into the stratosphere. When it was first published in the United States in 1997, The Ruby in the Smoke was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a Booklist Editor’s Choice and was nominated for the Edgar.
Knopf has chosen to republish all four Sally Lockhart mysteries at the same time: The Ruby in the Smoke, The Shadow in the North, The Tiger in the Well and The Tin Princess are all available in very handsome and reasonably priced paperback editions, and just in time for holiday gift giving for the young mystery reader on your list.