Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Ruby in the Smoke

The Ruby in the Smoke
by Phillip Pullman, 1987
Anton Lesser, Narrator
Listening Library (Audio); Unabridged edition (June 8, 2004)

I am a fan Pullman's His Dark Materials books but have never read any of his other books. Trolling through the audio books at the library I came upon the first book in his Sally Lockhart series. I remembered how much my oldest daughter enjoyed the series so I picked it up. Now that I have finished it I will just say that I could listen to Anton Lesser, the narrator, read the phone book. His performance is outstanding.

The story set in Victorian England, is full of atmosphere and mystery. Sally Lockhart has learned that her father has perished on a sea voyage. Arriving at his business to get some answers, she asks the company lawyer about a cryptic message she has received, "Beware the seven blessings." He drops dead on the spot. In the days that follow, Sally realizes her own life is in danger and she must go into hiding.

Mysterious messages, the opium trade, a priceless ruby and the grimy backstreets of London are part of a puzzle that Sally must unravel. Through her efforts she also unlocks a memory and a door to her own past.

Narrators of audio books vary in their ability to connect with the material and readers. Sometimes a reader's forced characterizations and mannered accents get in the way of the story or put me off the book altogether.

Anton Lesser's reading of this story was dead on perfect. He is an accomplished actor and his reading of this story was so engaging. The various characters were voiced perfectly. I want to "read" the two sequels to this book but I plan to seek out the audio versions which Lesser also narrated.

According to the IMDB I've seen Lesser in several shows, Foyle's War, Waking the Dead, The Moonstone and others. He is one of those wonderful British actors who disappears into his roles. I will be watching for him in the future.

I highly recommend this audio book.

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