Book Review: The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman

My 200th post! Go me 😀

Book 2 in the “Sally Lockhart Mysteries” series.

Set a few years after the first book The Ruby in the Smoke, Sally is well-established as a financial advisor and accountant to her friend (who loves her dearly) Frederick Garland.

Three seemingly separate events begin the unravelling of the mystery at the centre of this novel. Firstly, a young woman turns up at Sally’s office requesting assistance in claiming money back that she had invested in a shipping company; the money is lost when one of its sturdy steam-liners sinks. Suspecting fraud, Sally promises to investigate and attempt to claim back the woman’s money.

The second event sees cockney geezer Jim Taylor providing muscle in the protection of a young magician who seems to have attracted the wrong sort of people at the back stage door. He later confides that he witnessed a murder and some people want him silenced.

In the third event, Jim goes to see a medium and experiences a seance. Jim is convinced the woman is a fraud until she reveals some information that seems to link the magician and the sinking of the ship. Together, Sally, Fred and Jim attempt to figure out how the events are linked and through whom.

As with the first in the series, this is a short yet complex book with many twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the end. Sally is well fleshed out now, Fred though a little under-developed is likeable and you can’t help but feel sorry for the man that Sally continues to reject his marriage proposals. Unfortunately, he is killed toward the end with Sally pregnant. The book suffers for the lack of dynamic between Fred and Rosa, especially following his death where she does not even get a mention. Perhaps Pullman felt that there was already too many female characters but I do feel that this book needed Rosa’s presence.

The central plot is intriguing and is less of a crime novel and more of a mystery-drama. I know I said this about The Ruby in the Smoke, but this further develops away from simple crime thriller. Ultimately aimed at young adults, the series is an interesting introduction to the genre.


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