The Ruby in the Smoke
(first published by OUP, 1985; USA, Knopf, 1987; UK, Scholastic, 1999)
'Have you ever heard the phrase The Seven Blessings?'
That question causes a man to die of shock, and propels Sally Lockhart into a desperate adventure that will expose the deepest secrets of the corrupt and murderous opium trade.
Sally is sixteen when the story begins, orphaned and alone. She's had an unconventional education: her knowledge of English Literature, French, History, Art and Music is non-existent, but she has a thorough grounding in military tactics, can run a business, ride like a Cossack and shoot straight with a pistol. When her father is drowned in suspicious circumstances in the South China Sea, Sally soon finds herself in terrible danger too - and at the rotten heart of it all lies the deadly secret of the ruby in the smoke.
This was another book that began as a play. I liked the characters and the setting so much that I turned it into a novel, and then I thought of some more stories for the same characters, and it became a series.
Read an extract