Ruby in the Smoke

The Ruby in the Smoke (Sally Lockhart Mystery #1) by Phillip Pullman

Veronica “Sally” Lockhart’s father has just passed away. Her father had traveled to China to look into some of his accounts there as he felt something fishy was going down and wanted to speak to a Van Eeden for help. The ship went down and sixteen year old Sally finds herself at loose ends. She has to stay with a distant relative Aunt Rees, who hates her.

She then receives an anonymous note about the “seven blessings”. She heads over to her father’s former shipping agency to speak to his partner Selby, but he is out and she has to talk to Mr. Higgs. She asks him about the seven blessings and he has a heart attack dying of fright.

She mets Jim Harper, boy messenger, who was listening in. He thinks Higgs knew something and was doing something shady. He agrees to help her and keeps the real story secret along with having his eyes and ears open to anything and everything in the office.

Keeping an eye out for you

What are the Seven blessings? It must be something horrible if it can cause a heart attack.

Hmm…

Meanwhile a mean cruel hag has been blackmailing a Mr. Marchbanks, former Major in the military. She finally has what she wants, but then Mr. Marchbanks does a switch on her. He spots Sally’s name in the newspaper and knows he must contact her.

Sally returns “home” (as it is no real home) and she receives a letter from Mr. Marchbanks asking her to visit as he has information for her. She thinks it might be about the Seven Blessings and heads over there.

Hmm…

Meanwhile, a sailor, Matthew Bedlam, groggy from sealife and opium has come to London. He is searching for Sally as he has a message from her father but has to stop and stay somewhere, he cannot go any further. He stops at the hag’s boarding house, and when she overhears some of his words-imprisons him upstairs to get more info. She’s never one to pass on an opportunity.

Hmmm…?

Sally goes to Marchbanks, but gets lost and has to ask a handsome photographer for help. He points the way saying that he did the same not too long ago for an old witch.

Sally arrives at the house and Marchbanks is scared stiff. Mr. Marchbanks is freaking out as doesn’t want “her” to find Sally so he gives her a diary that is coming apart and says it rightfully belongs to her.

Mrs. Holland is angry that the ruby that was promised to her is no longer in the bank. She is harassing Machbanks, and when she finds out he is giving it away, she murders him and heads after Sally.

Sally hides out in Fredrick’s photography tent, and he helps her. He wants to ride with her on the train to potect her, but she declines taking his card instead. On the train she starts to read the diary-an account of when Major Marchbanks served in India along with her father. She starts to read the story, but falls asleep. When she wakes up, she discovers the diary has been stolen! The only thing left is a note to find “it”, but what?

Sally goes home and is berated by Aunt Rees. That night Mrs. Holland sends a man to pinch any papers from Sally. He doesn’t find what they are looking for but does steal her gun. He goes to deliver it to Mrs. Holland, but is murdered.

Sally wakes the next morning and knows her belongings have been riffled through and things are missing. Her aunt accuses her of lying and Sally decides to leave.

She has nowhere to go and ends up in Fredrick Garland’s house living with him and his sister Rose and their assistant Trembler. Sally has no “skills” useful for woman’s job, but has an affinity for numbers and business and helps the Garland photography studio start making money.

Meanwhile, Matthew has begged Adelaide, Mrs. Holland’s servant girl to contact Sally Lockhart and she heads to the shipping agency. There she runs into Jim and gives him her information.

Hmm…

Jim contacts Sally and they search for Matthew’s minister brother, Nicholas. They are twins and Nicholas has been waiting for his brother to return. He goes with Fredrick to find him and bring him home. After a tussle with Mr. Berry (Mrs. Holland’s muscle) and Mrs. Holland they bring Matthew back. After a long wait Matthew reveals that Sally’s father was murdered. There is a gang called the Seven Blessings, a part of the Triads,  and run by the terrible pirate Ah Ling. They didn’t want her father to reveal what they were doing, smuggling opium, and murdered him and the whole ship. Matthew barely escaped.

Meanwhile, when buying opium for Matthew, Sally went under and was affected by the opium. She had the nightmare, the same one she is always affected by. Something about India, Marchbanks and her father. It turns out to be a memory but what does it mean?

Hmmm…

So Sally has two adversaries and three mysteries. Where is the item Major Marchbanks wanted, the Ruby?

What happened in India when she was a child?

Hmm…

Who is this mysterious man that killed her father? Will she be able to figure it out before the killer strikes again?

Thoughts After Reading:

This was an extremely intriguing mystery with a lot of fun characters.  I enjoyed every page of it, and who Ah Ling turned out to be was a great twist!

For more historical fiction, go to Child of the Mist

For more Young Adult Fiction, go to Paper Valentine

The Little Archies in The Secret of the Betsy Belle

I found this old Archie comic and had to share:

They should have known he was bad when they heard his name was Khan:

For more Archie Comics, go to Detection Predilection

For more Little Archie, go to Little Archie: Man of the House

Haven’t We Met Before?

“Haven’t We Met Before” from Death Wears a Beauty Mask by Mary Higgins Clark

William Koenig was arrested for attempted murder of a young woman named Emily Winters. He chose her because in past life she was Kate Fallow and wanted to marry his past self Simon Guinness. When Koenig/Guinness refused she ended up murdering her husband, framing Koenig/Guinness and had him hanged.

Y’all know what that mans. Someone is going to end up DEAD!

Koenig tried to get his revenge but was foiled. Now he resides at the Haviland Hospital for the Criminally Insane. He is visited by Westchester County Assistant District Attorney Jack Carroll. Carroll believes that he is responsible for a string of unsolved murders and is trying to get him to confess.

Carroll os also dating Emily and is doubly interested in keeping Koenig behind bars.

Koenig is just baiting the two. He speaks to Carroll and the psychiatrists, but inside has plotted a way to get out and get Emily.

Koenig has murdered before. He won’t admit it to Carroll, he’s a very smart man, but he is responsible for the unsolved murders.

  • Fire in Rosedale that killed an elderly woman eight years ago? In Koenig’s eyes she was a witch from Salem who had him killed.
  • Murder of a cashier at the York Cinema in Mamaroneck five years ago? In Koenig’s eyes he was a 17th century pirate who set him adrift in 1603
  • Jeffrey Lane a real estate broker in Rye? In Koenig’s eyes his younger brother in Glasgow in 1790 who murdered him for the estate.

The time ends and Carroll concentrates on Emily. Emily lives in White Plains, housesitting and waitressing-putting her way through college. She actually had herself regressed and saw that she was Eliza Jackson Southern Belle during the Civil War. Carroll is deeply in love with her, but understands she’s busy and needs her space at times. He calls her, but doesn’t see her as she has a long day and wants to head home.

That night Koenig breaks out-strangles the guard, escapes in the orderly’s outfit, and is out a half hour before they even realize he is gone.

This time he gets to Emily before she can press the panic button to call the police. This time he will have her.

It is the end of the line, or is it? Eliza Jackson just might make an appearance-and she’s one tough Southerner.

Hmm…

Thoughts after Reading:

Was good but I’m not really into past lives mysteries. However, Clark always knows how to tell a tale and does it well.

For more Mary Higgins Clark, go to I’ve Got You Under My Skin

For more stories from Death Wears a Beauty Mask, go to The Man Next Door

For more short stories, go to A Much Expected Murder