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Philip Pullman – The Shadow in the North

November 16, 2007

111. The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman (1986)
Sally Lockhart Trilogy, Book 2

Read by Anton Lesser
Length: 8h 57m (288 pages)

Genre: Young Adult; Historical Fiction; Mystery

Started: 29 October 2007
Finished: 16 November 2007

Summary: This book opens six years after the end of The Ruby in the Smoke, and Sally has set up shop as a financial consultant. One of her clients has lost all of her money due to the collapse of a shipping line. Meanwhile, Jim Taylor is helping a magician named McKinnon escape from the henchmen of one Mr. Axel Bellman, and Frederick Garland is investigating potential actual psychic powers possessed by a local spiritualist. All three of these separate threads eventually tie back together to Mr. Bellman, his shady business dealings, and a new invention that may threaten the basis of human society.

Review: While I had some issues with the plot pacing and structure of The Ruby in the Smoke, at least it was enough to hold my interest. This book, unfortunately, was not. Foreign rubies and murder and pirates and opium dens are exciting. Financial records and patents and insurance fraud? Not so much, or at least not in this case. The writing itself was good; Pullman doesn’t shy away from the grim realities of life, which I appreciate. However, I was intensely bored by the plot, to the point where I very nearly gave it up several times. I hung in there, however, and there was no impressive turn-around, no pay-off to make it ultimately worth my while. The plot and motivation and various threads of mystery hang together well enough, but that on its own is not enough to carry a book. 2 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Well-written but disappointingly dull and not worth your while unless you really, really loved the characters from the first book.

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