Sally is sixteen and uncommonly pretty. Her knowledge of English literature, French, history, art and music is non-existent, but she has a thorough grounding in military tactics, can run a business, ride like a Cossack and shoot straight with a pistol.Apparently everybody else read this book growing up, so I came a little late to the game on this one. It’s one of those books that I’d always vaguely heard of but never read. It’s a mystery set in Victorian England, so I knew just by reading the back that I was, like, 99 percent likely to enjoy it--and I did.
When her dear father is drowned in suspicious circumstances in the South China Sea, Sally is left to fend for herself, an orphan and alone in the smoky fog of Victorian London. Though she doesn't know it, Sally is already in terrible danger. Soon the mystery and the danger will deepen - and at the rotten heart of it all lies the deadly secret of the ruby in the smoke...
The book wasn’t terribly deep or anything--just Sally and her friends trying to solve the mystery of the ruby. But the characters were all just so likeable. Sally herself was a little lackluster and wasn’t really involved in much of the action of the story until the very end. But it honestly wasn’t that noticeable since there were a ton of other characters and perspectives going on. Fred, the cute photographer, was totally adorable and nice and happy. He was just so good-hearted, you know? And Jim, oh Jim--if I was allowed to crush on a 12-year-old without being a pedophile, I would pick Jim. He’s so scrappy and tough, but he’s loyal and pretty okay for a 12-year-old boy.
The writing was really witty and clever--it had me smiling all the time. The one thing about the book, which didn’t bug me as much as it had me scratching my head, was all the drug use. For a book that was shelved in the children’s section at the library, there was a ton of opium use happening. Even Sally uses it, for pete’s sake. I think this book had more drug use than pretty much any other I’ve read.
Overall, I really enjoyed this one. But I might’ve enjoyed it more if I had read it when I was younger, because I think the minor things that bugged me now would’ve gone way over my head. Still, I had a lot of fun with this one, and if I see the other books in the series for cheap, I’ll definitely pick them up.