When Enola Holmes, the much younger sister of detective Sherlock Holmes, discovers her mother has disappeared—on her 14th birthday nonetheless—she knows she alone can find her. Disguising herself as a grieving widow, Enola sets out to the heart of London to uncover her mother’s whereabouts—but not even the last name Holmes can prepare her for what awaits. Suddenly involved in the kidnapping of the young Marquess of Basilwether, Enola must escape murderous villains, free the spoiled Marquess, and perhaps hardest of all, elude her shrewd older brother—all while collecting clues to her mother’s disappearance!
A remarkable debut of a new mystery series by two-time Edgar Award winning author Nancy Springer.
The Case of the Left Handed Lady (Enola Holmes 2):
Sherlock Holmes’s sister, Enola, is back on another case!
Enola Holmes is being hunted by the world’s most famous detective—her own brother, Sherlock Holmes. But while she is on the run in the world’s biggest, darkest, dirtiest city, she discovers a hidden cache of charcoal drawings and feels as if she is a soul mate to the girl who drew them. But that girl, Lady Cecily, has disappeared without a trace. Braving the midnight streets, Enola must unravel the clues to find this left-handed lady, but in order to save her, Enola risks revealing more than she should. Will she be able to keep her identity a secret and find Lady Cecily, or will the one thing she is trying to save—her freedom—be lost forever?
The Case of the Bizzare Bouquets (Enola Holmes 3):
Everyone knows Dr. Watson is Sherlock Holmes’ right-hand man—so when he goes missing, it’s a shock. Even Sherlock hasn’t the slightest clue as to where he could be.
Enola is intrigued but wary; she’s still hiding from her older brothers, and getting involved could prove to be disastrous. But Enola can’t help but investigate, especially when she learns that a bizarre bouquet—with flowers all symbolizing death—has been delivered to the Watson residence.
Enola knows she must act quickly, but can she find Dr. Watson in time?
(For the sake of space, I’ll leave off the last three installments: The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan, and The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline, and The Case of the Gypsy Goodbye.)
Originally my plan was to review the first three books in this series. So I picked up the first three from the library on Tuesday. On Wednesday I went back to get the back three. Late Thursday I finished book six. That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?
Move over, Nancy Drew. Enola Holmes can do it all – in a corset, no less. But of course it’s a corset of her own special design, and she uses it not to be fashionable but as protection against garroters, as an aid to help her change her shape for various disguises, and as a convenient storage space for useful items such as money, a dagger, a change of disguise, and iodine and bandages – the perfect accoutrement of rebellion. And therein lies the heart of this series, the delightful fun that is Enola Holmes, an ingenious, capable teenager who flees to freedom and creates a life for herself that she is determined to keep, even as her famous detective brother is determined to catch her.
Enola’s fugitive status adds an interesting layer to this series as each book finds Enola not only trying to solve a case, but doing so while being hounded – and sometimes cornered – by her two brilliant, chauvinistic brothers.
Equally interesting is Enola’s struggle with her feelings about her absentee mother, a woman who walked out on Enola on her 14th birthday and never looked back. Enola – named for “alone” spelled backwards and raised to be self sufficient – grapples with her feelings as she struggles to understand her mother from afar. Did she abandon Enola because she knew Enola could take care of herself? Or did she just not care enough to bring Enola along?
The historical detail in these stories is fascinating – clearly Springer has done her homework. She’s not shy about portraying the filth and poverty of London, or how easily girls were made helpless by the laws and social conventions of the time. However Springer also delights in the subversive use of the so called womanly arts as Enola uses the secret codes of fans, flowers, and dress to help her solve crimes.
And of course the mysteries in these books are spanking fun, chock full of cryptograms and intrigue. Mysteries – especially in younger books – so often feel painfully contrived, but Spring deftly doles out clues at just the right clip. Frankly, I prefer these mysteries to quite a few adult mysteries I’ve read this year.
As you can probably tell, I adore this series. These are fun, smart stories with delightful characters and plenty of history to get your teeth into. The quality is maintained throughout all six books, and while the sixth book has the simplest mystery, it is still extremely satisfying in how it wraps up Enola’s emotional arc. I think Springer was very wise in when and how she chose to end this series – but I can’t help wishing there were a few more Enola books to read.
What more can I say – these books are a real treat. Don’t let the fact that they’re shelved in the Junior section of your library keep you from enjoying them. After all, the Junior section is where we found Harry Potter…
Byrt Grade: A
As Lever Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…
I am a great fan of Sherlock Holmes. I am also a purist when it comes to my favorite characters. I am not a great fan of adding to or taking away from their known history. Therefore, I was very hesitant to read an Enola Holmes mystery. As conceived by Nancy Springer, Enola is the much younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. My curiosity finally won out and I read The Case of The Missing Marquess. I was pleasantly surprised and extremely glad that I did.
Oh Enola. Oh Nancy Springer. I hope even more readers discover you because of the current trendiness of Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Why? Because you are both brilliant. This series is an instant ticket to my happy place. Partly because it reminds me of my childhood, when I read many of the original Holmes tales. Partly because the writing is just so darn good.
Enola herself is bright, courageous, stubborn and sees the ridiculousness of the Way Things Are Done — all qualities I love in a heroine — and I’m DYING to read the other books in the series. Highly recommended to young readers of historical fiction and to grown-up fans of the Holmes brothers, whether it be Doyle’s originals or fanfiction like Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series. GREAT FUN.