by Philip Pullman (1985).
Quick-reading Victorian mystery story from the author of my favorite series of fantasy books ever. This book in no way held up to the amazing-ness of His Dark Materials, but it was thoroughly enjoyable in its own right.
Sally Lockhart is a Victorian heroine after my own heart: smart, tough, capable, afraid but almost never paralyzed by her fear. She gets thrown into the middle of a double mystery, and rather than turn away from it, she plunges herself in with determination. A little bit of a Victorian-era Veronica Mars, you might say.
(This quality comes up in a lot of my favorite stories, and the best response, I think, is always to dive in straightaway. Your life is probably going to get fucked up anyway, if that mystery is knocking on your door, so there's no point in playing ostrich and thinking you'll stay safe. Just turn around and face it head on, and you save yourself the time, the crying/denying/hiding/etc. Plus your dignity.)
And now I get to watch the BBC filmed version of the story, starring Billie Piper, my all-time favorite companion.