________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 19 . . . . May 26, 2006


The Tiger in the Well. (Sally Lockhart series).

Philip Pullman.
Markham, ON: Scholastic Canada, 1991/2005.
431 pp., pbk., $12.99.
ISBN 0-439-95742-7.

Subject Headings:
London (England)-Social life and witches (customs)-19th century-Juvenile fiction.
Detective and mystery stories.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Deborah Mervold.

**** /4


One sunny morning in the autumn of 1881, Sally Lockhart stood in the garden and watched her little daughter play, and thought that things were good. 

She was wrong, but she wouldn't know how or why she was wrong for twenty minutes yet. The man who would show her was still finding his way to the house. For the moment she was happy, which was delightful, and she knew she was, which was rare; she was usually too busy to notice.

She was happy, for one thing, about her home. It was a large place in Twickenham called Orchard House a Regency building, open and airy, with iron balconies and a glass-roofed veranda facing the garden. The garden itself, enclosed by a mellow brick wall, consisted of a wide, sunny lawn with some flower-beds and a vine and a fig-tree against the wall on one side, and the group of old apple and plum trees at the bottom which gave the house its name.


Sally Lockhart and her friends, Webster Garland, a 65-year-old photographer and her partner in Garland and Lockhart, and Jim Taylor, a 20-year-old man, share a house and adventures. Sally is on her own as Garland and Jim are traveling in South America. Her 19-month-old daughter, Harriet, is with her. Harriet's father, and Garland 's nephew, died in a fire. Sally is a feminist and an unmarried mother in Victorian England and, for the moment, she is happy with her life.

     Into this happiness comes a shadow when Sally is sued for divorce and custody of Harriet by Arthur James Parrish who claims they were married. Because Sally has never met Mr. Parrish, she thinks it is nothing but a mix-up and visits the firm of her late lawyer. Mr. Temple has died, and his replacement, Mr. Adock, agrees to fight the case but seems to believe that there must be some truth to the allegations. Sally is perplexed about the case. She knows that the charges are not true, but Mr. Parrish must be after something. Sally starts to investigate and finds that there is a record of the marriage and that it appears to be her signature.

     Mr. Parrish is also involved with smuggling Jewish people from Russia into England. He is being investigated for fraud by Dan Goldberg. Russians are being put ashore in England instead of New York. There is also a man called the Tzaddik who is involved with Mr. Parrish. Sally places Harriet in a safe place and goes as a house maid to see if she can discover what is going on. What Sally finds out is that the whole business is tied to an incident from her past. When Jim arrives back in England to find the house has been taken over by strangers and Harriet abducted, all the pieces fall into place. 

     This third book in the adventures of Sally Lockhart is an interesting mystery and adventure tale by the popular author, Philip Pullman. It is divided into three parts and 29 chapters. Sally leads a realistic cast of characters who deal with life's challenges in Victorian England. Sally is a protagonist about whom we care. We want her to succeed against increasing adversity. The plot is intriguing as all of the subplots come together in a satisfying way. The dialogue flows very well and is believable. Although the story is successfully concluded, there is a link to the next book in this historical fiction series.

     The intended audience would be middle years and up. It is an excellent choice for school, public and home libraries. I would highly recommend this book.

Highly Recommended.

Residing in Shellbrook, SK, Deborah Mervold is a retired teacher-librarian, educator and Resource Based Learning Consultant.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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