The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman

It's been six years since Sally Lockhart solved the murder of her father with the help of photographer Frederick Garland and the handy office boy Jim Thorpe. In the years since Sally not only studied at Cambridge (although not with a certificate - dang Victorian anti-feminists!) but set up her own thriving investment consulting business. With Sally's sound business advice (and capital), Fred's photography business has continued to grow and evolve - even allowing him to do a bit of private detective work on the side. While the lovable, jack-of-all-trades Jim spends his nights at the theaters and his days writing fantastically gruesome plays which continue to be rejected by every playhouse in London. The three have remained fast friends although Fred's repeated attempts to ask Sally to be his wife - and her subsequent refusals - have added an element of strain to an otherwise enviable friendship and partnership.

Proud of the name she has made for her business, Sally is quick to offer help to a former client who cries foul after all the money Sally advised her to invest in a British shipping company is unexpectedly lost when the company goes under (pun intended). In her methodical and rational way, Sally begins to tackle this newest mystery with her customary intelligence and tenacity. Along the road to discovery, she begins to find parallels in her own search to Fred's current job of helping a talented magician discover who is trying to kill him. But it's a good thing they continue to cross paths because the solving of this mystery proves to be a deeper and more dangerous game than they've ever played before.

If I had only one word to describe The Shadow in the North it would be gut-wrenching. Seriously. Sally, Fred, and Jim face some enormously hard situations that do not end well. At. All. But luckily there are those quiet moments too, when they are finally given a chance to sit together and talk and remember just why they became friends in the first place. Each one is so very different, but the strengths of each contribute a whole so perfectly matched to the group. If nothing else, The Shadow in the North is a beautiful treatise on friendship and relationships. To my unending delight Jim was give a much bigger role in this book. By far he was one of the most intriguing characters from The Ruby in the Smoke and I loved to see how his boyish penchant for penny dreadfuls translated to a passion for play-writing.

Sally's second adventure was a much more intense and plot-driven novel with plenty of twists and atmospheric references so that as a reader, you can never escape Sally's unenviable place or position in the strict Victorian England society. What can I say besides the fact that it's a fabulous piece of storytelling by Philip Pullman? It was like each new page introduced some new compelling and intriguing detail that I had no idea what to expect next. Furthermore, given the shocking ending - which literally left in tears, my friends - I am happy to say I already have the next Sally Lockhart mystery, The Tiger in the Well, on hand and despite such heartbreak, am ready to dive right back in.

series reading order:
~ The Ruby in the Smoke - my review
~ The Shadow in the North
~ The Tiger in the Well
~ The Tin Princess (companion novel)

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Alice in Blogland review
Jenny's Books review
Soliloquy in Blue review

book source: my local library


Unknown said...

I haven't read this series in forever, and your review makes me want to re-read these books :)

I'm always amazed at the wide range some authors can go with their writing. This series is totally NOT fantasy, if I remember correctly...

Angiegirl said...

Oh hell. I get choked up just reading your review and thinking about it. Haven't been able to re-read it for a long time, but I love Sally and Fred so much. Still. After all these years.

Michelle said...

Epic Rat - Not fantasy at all. It's sorta a misty Victorian Noir mystery - and really, really great. I vote for a reread!

Angie - Yup. You summed up my feelings right there. Those two are just perfect for each other.