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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Sally Lockhart Mysteries: The Shadow in the North (review)

It’s a few years after the events of Ruby in the Smoke, the first of novelist Philip Pullman’s stories of the spunky Victorian girl detective [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon U.K.], and star Billie Piper (Doctor Who) is even more spectacularly confident in her second outing as the young woman now daring enough to set herself up in the City, London’s financial center, as a consultant. If her fiscal consultancy happens to leads her into mysteries that must be solved, so be it. What do a nasty shipping magnate, a stage magician, a drawing-room medium, and other colorful characters of the era have to do with a shady corporate bankruptcy and rumors of a terrifying new weapon? Just the slightest bit redolent of the modern Victorian subgenre known as steampunk, this is a wickedly sneaky mystery wrapped in romantic intrigue — Sally’s old friend and detecting partner Fred Garland (JJ Feild: Northanger Abbey) is more sweet on her than ever, while her social boldness leaves her open to threats of blackmail from those shocked at the idea of a woman at work in the City. A BBC production, it aired on PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery! in the U.S.; this DVD features the PBS host segment with Alan Cumming but no additional bonus features beyond some downloadable reading guides.

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