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Literature / Sally Lockhart

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Sally Lockhart

A series of books by Philip Pullman about Sally Lockhart, a young woman living in Victorian London, who solves various mysteries with the help of her friends.

The four books in the series are:

  • The Ruby in the Smoke
  • The Shadow in the North
  • The Tiger in the Well
  • The Tin Princess

Main Characters:

  • Sally Lockhart: Main character, a young woman who develops a passion for solving mysteries after her father's death. "Uncommonly pretty" and works as a financial consultant.
  • Jim Taylor: Sally's friend, a lovable young Londoner who is courageous and outgoing. An office boy, he helps Sally solve her mysteries.
  • Frederick Garland: Love interest for Sally, a photographer with an imaginative streak.
  • Ah Ling: Villain in several of the books.
  • Adelaide: Orphan who becomes a main character through the series.

The first two novels were adapted for television by BBC, notably starring Doctor Who's Billie Piper and Matt Smith as Sally and Jim Taylor.


  • 11th-Hour Ranger: Jim essentially fills this role in Tiger in the Well, as he turns up towards the end of the book in time to save Sally's house and reputation; Sally explicitly muses at one point earlier in the novel that none of this would have happened if Jim and Webster Garland had been there to vouch for her against Arthur Parrish's claims.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Jim and Frederick pull one in The Shadow in the North to get back files stolen from Sally's office. It's not their first time.
    Jim: We've done it before... It's funny, ain't it, Fred? Amazing what you can get away with. You could walk in anywhere with a bit of paper in your hand—you could get away with murder, almost.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Adelaide is apparently an orphan; her mother is definitely dead and she never knew her father, although she imagined that a man she saw might be her parent.
  • Dark Lord on Life Support: Ah Ling/Hendrik van Eeden/Tzaddik becomes this after Sally shoots him in The Ruby in the Smoke; when he returns in The Tiger in the Well, it’s revealed that the bullet went through his spine and left him paralysed, requiring him to have personal assistance to do something as simple as go to the bathroom.
  • Dead Man Writing: Ruby in the Smoke ends with Sally finding a final letter her father wrote her before his death, in which he apologises for not telling her about her biological father. However, Major Lockhart affirms that, in his mind, the best thing he ever did was choose Sally over a fortune when he traded away a valuable ruby to protect Sally from a man who he knew would be a bad father to her.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Sally's father, who is continually regarded as a hero by Sally even after she learns that he wasn't her biological father.
  • Demoted to Extra: Technically Jim and Sally fall victim to this in Tiger in the Well and Tin Princess respectively, as Jim is absent on a trip until the end of Tiger and Sally is kept occupied by other business for all but brief scenes at the beginning and the end of Tin Princess.
  • Eternal Sexual Freedom: The Shadow in the North provides a relatively justified example as Sally's friends seem perfectly thrilled she's gotten pregnant outside marriage (since the baby is Frederick’s and so serves as Someone to Remember Him By), and don't even seem to worry that this might be difficult for her. Given that she's a London woman with a career during The Gay '90s, and Sally’s friends tend towards the bohemian, this is fairly believable. Notably in the next book, The Tiger in the Well, this turns into a huge problem for her when a fake husband turns up and hardly anybody is willing to believe Sally's side of the story, particularly when her friends are away for a few weeks and thus can’t provide character witnesses.
  • Everyone Can See It: Jim reflects that Sally and Fred are made for one another, so why do they have to fight all the time?
  • Evil Cripple: The Tzaddik in Tiger in the Well, AKA Ah Ling/Henrick Van Eeden, who was paralysed by a bullet through his spine
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Jim and Fred, with Jim breaking down in tears when he is informed that Frederick is dead.
  • Her Heart Will Go On: Sally lives to avenge Frederick's death and goes on to have his daughter.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Alas, poor Chaka and Frederick each die to save the same woman (ironically, not Sally).
  • Married to the Job: Sally for quite some time, focusing on her position and resisting marriage because she doesn't want to lose legal control of her property by marrying a man.
  • Opium Den: Features mainly in Ruby in the Smoke, but also shown on other occasions.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Arthur Parrish is essentially this, as most of his criminal acts are based around money rather than his own prejudices, and he is only acting as Sally's husband because he has been ordered to do so by his 'employer', the Tzaddik, instead of having any vendetta against Sally herself. Doesn't justify any of his actions, especially when he shoots Goldberg when the latter comes to help Sally.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Frederick gives a brutal one to Sally in The Shadow in the North.
    Frederick: There's you and there's the rest of us, and we're all inferior... Have you any idea of how unlikable you are, Sally? At your best you're magnificent, and I loved you for it. At your worst you're nothing but a smooth, self-righteous, patronizing bitch.
  • Rags to Royalty: Adelaide goes from a penniless orphan servant girl to the Queen of a small country.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Adelaide acts as this when she becomes the queen and sole ruler of a country after the death of her husband during his coronation.
  • Ruritanian Romance: The Tin Princess is a Ruritanian romance set in the fictitious kingdom of Razkavia.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: It turns out that Major Lockhart basically adopted Sally because of this, giving her biological father Major Marchbanks an expensive ruby to pay off Marchbanks' gambling debts in exchange for Sally because Lockhart feared that Marchbanks was in no state to be a father to her after the death of his wife/Sally's mother.
  • Second Love: In The Tiger in the Well, Dan Goldberg becomes this for Sally.
  • Shoot the Dog: Unfortunately, a literal example; Sally's dog Chaka is killed in The Shadow in the North. It's a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Skewed Priorities: In Tiger in the Well, when Sally is being sued for divorce as an unfit mother by Arthur Parrish, her lawyer and solicitor are more concerned with defending Sally of the charges raised by Parrish, such as Sally being basically an alcoholic, than whether or not Sally is actually married to Parrish in the first place.
  • Society Is to Blame: This comes up on several occasions, as Sally meets and befriends criminals and vagabonds who commit crime to survive in Victorian England, often finding that people on the wrong side of the law can be equally moral and good as anyone else.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Harriet is this for Sally after the death of Frederick.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Axel Bellmann turns out to be one, and his explanation bears many similarities to the arguments used to support a nuclear deterrent. Sally's total conviction that he's wrong is more because she's essentially an idealist who believes that a peaceful world isn't worth having if it's based on fear, rather than because she faults his logic. Of course, this is also a case of Dramatic Irony; even though the book is set before things like a nuclear deterrent were even conceived of, it was written some time after it became painfully apparent that weapons of mass destruction do not bring about world peace.