Springer, N. (2006). The case of the missing marquess: An Enola Holmes mystery. New York: Philomel Books.
Enola Holmes is the much younger sister of the great Sherlock Holmes. When their mother turns up missing, Sherlock and her other brother Mycroft decide to send Enola to boarding school. Enola doesn’t want to go and instead decides to take off on an adventure to find her mother, using encoded clues and money her mother has left hidden for her. Once she leaves home, she is confronted with the mysterious disappearance of a child from a noble family. Can Enola solve both mysteries? What will happen when she gets to London? Was her mother right when she told her, “You will do very well on your own, Enola” ?
The novel is written in an old fashioned style; for instance the chapters are labelled as Chapter the First. This, among other things, had me wary at first. I feared the story would be derivative and pretentious. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Springer manages to create a strong female detective who doesn’t apologize for being a woman. Instead, she takes advantage of her society’s ignorance to sneak in and get exactly what she wants. Springer doesn’t get didactic in preaching gender equality. Rather, Enola is a strong and complex character who discovers that she could use what she believed limited her (i.e. society’s expectations of women) to her advantage.
For instance, she feels constricted by the corset she is expected to wear. Instead of rebelling against it, she uses the corset as a tool to hide important items on her person. In fact, the corset protects her from serious injury when she is attacked and the corset blocks the assailant’s knife from cutting her.
This story is sweet and subversive in the best possible way. Its cleverness snuck up on me, much like Enola does to those who underestimate her. She is a wonderful character for young teens to look up to.
Elizabeth Bush, Reviewer (The Bulletin of the Center for Children s Books, February 2006 (Vol. 59, No. 6))
Since the great fictional consulting detective Sherlock Holmes seems to have, at the pen of adult author Laurie King, improbably acquired a wife, it s not much of a stretch to find that his family now comprises a younger sister as well. Although Springer supplies a few messages to decode (and shows how to decode them), she spends far more time discussing Enola s family affairs and running her through London s seedier streets and docks than establishing her powers of observation or logic, making this more a tepid Victorian family tale than a mystery. She does, however, slyly explore Sherlock and Mycroft s chauvinistic side and, accepting Victorian mores on their own terms, demonstrate that Enola may have insight into an entire panoply of feminine concerns that are never openly discussed, giving her an edge over her renowned brothers, who regard women as unfathomable. The novel’s conclusion finds Enola opening her own detective service, and now that Holmes family relationships are established, perhaps subsequent adventures will show her skills to better advantage.
Mary Purucker (KLIATT Review, November 2006 (Vol. 40, No. 6))
Enola Holmes, age 14, is the much younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft. Her 64-year-old mother has walked away from her privileged life leaving Enola to solve a series of profitable puzzles she’s left in her wake. When Mycroft arranges for Enola to go to a boarding school where her waist will be strenuously reduced from 20 inches to 16 inches through various body enhancers, embellishments, and whatnot, she takes the money her mother has hidden for her and runs off to find her. Encountering the kidnapping of the young Viscount Tewksbury, she deduces where he has gone and in pursuit is kidnapped as well. This is one of the better Sherlock spin-offs, and we will all want to know more of the brave, intelligent, adventurous, witty Enola.
Use in Library
Let’s do some deciphering! I’d like to lead an activity providing students with a coded message and tools to decipher it. Maybe we could even write coded messages to each other. What if we used the code to include cryptic messages around the school; on the morning announcements, at lunch, on bulletin boards in the library and hallways?