Title: The Shadow In The North (Sally Lockhart #2)
Author: Philip Pullman
Publisher: Scholastic Ltd.
Release Date: 1999
Read it in: days
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Six years after solving the mysteries surrounding the death of her father (in The Ruby in the Smoke), Sally Lockhart has set up her own consulting business. But her photographer friend, Fred Garland, has a habit of drawing her into his private detective work owing to her skill in both finances and firearms. When one of Sally’s clients loses a large sum of money invested in a shipping firm and Fred encounters a conjurer on the lam from underworld thugs, the two begin to find links in these apparently disparate cases.
I was really looking forward to reading The Shadow In The North after reading The Ruby In The Smoke and couldn’t wait to start it.
However from the start there were things about it that made it different to the first book and I’m still not sure if I like that… The book is set six years after the end of The Ruby and this means you miss out on quite a lot of action… Apparently, Sally and Frederick fell in love at some point between the two books and Frederick wants to marry Sally, however she doesn’t want this as she isn’t sure about things.
The story is split up similar to The Amber Spyglass, multiple story lines from the view points of various characters which all get tied together somehow and I feel this works very well with the mysteries that are going on in this book. The overall mystery in The Shadow seems to be more believable and less fantasy than the mystery in The Ruby. You could actually almost imagine this happening! The only thing I would say about the split up of the story lines is that the overall story tends to focus more on Frederick and Jim rather than Sally. However given some character changes to Sally’s character I actually like that you don’t see much of her.
Sally has become less of a proud adolescent who although proud and a bit misguided, was genuinely nice and had a little bit of a small girl in her still. Instead she’s become, in my opinion, an arrogant, stuck-up cow. She now has her own business and doesn’t want anyone to take that from her, one of the excuses she has for not marrying Frederick is that he would get possession of her business and house etc etc. (Which turns out isn’t even true! She’s lying about it so she doesn’t have to marry him!!) She’s also got a massive Irish Deerhound that she has no hesitation in setting on people and using it to bully people so she can get what she wants.
However, the antagonist in this tale is just as arrogant and powerful, but he has real power. Bellmann seems to be the only person (other than Frederick) who won’t take any nonsense from Sally and seems to be immune to her bitchiness. Although I should hate him, I kind of admired him when he first appeared, for the very reason that Sally went in all head strong and tried to bully him to get what she wants and failed epically to do so because of Bellmann’s powerful demeanour.
Jim has become a main character in this book and I love that fact! He’s grown from the little street wise child in The Ruby into an ambitious and smart young man in The Shadow. He works as a helper in Frederick’s photography business and also helps out at the theatre with stage productions and shows as he wants to be a playwright. He and Frederick seem to be the main driving force for the mysteries and right in the middle of the action for most of the book, with Sally skirting around the edge and only being loosely connected to it all.
There is one loose end that is really bugging me from The Ruby. At the end (SPOILER ALERT!) there’s a character who goes missing, a young girl who used to work for Mrs Holland but who was rescued by Frederick. She went missing at the end of The Ruby In The Smoke and was never heard from again it seems, regardless of being quite an important character and liked by everyone else, but they seem to have completely given up looking for her and she hasn’t even been mentioned in this book at all…
The ending, just like in The Ruby In The Smoke has a lot of twists and turns and I loved it, apart from the climax… It wasn’t really much of a climax, it got shadowed over by one of the twists and it just felt as though Pullman had thrown all the conclusions into one chapter in a very rushed fashion. Fair enough this also happens in The Ruby, but it didn’t feel rushed in that book as it all fitted together well.
Also the conclusion to Sally and Frederick’s relationship I feel was a bit rushed, added to the fact that you miss out on six years where the romance between them could have grown, it gives the conclusion to Sally and Frederick a bit of random out-of-nowhere feel…
Overall, I liked the book but I have to say out of everything I’ve read by Philip Pullman, this one is my least favourite…