A solid historical mystery, this turns the tables on Sherlock Holmes and establishes his 14-year old sister as a heroine and master detective. With secret codes, disguises and fascinating twists of fate, Enola Holmes is a classic independent young woman, determined to solve the mysterious case of the missing Lady Cecily and gain more clues to the whereabouts of her own missing mother. Has Lady Cecily been kidnapped or did she leave of her own accord? What about her friendship with the mysterious Alexander Finch, a local merchant and champion of the labor movement? As Enola adopts the persona of an assistant to “Dr. Ragostin” and roams the streets of London, disguised as a nun, she searches for clues. Keeping in touch with her mother through ciphers in the newspaper, Enola gains confidence that she can do “quite well on her own.” Nevertheless, she is keenly aware that to keep her freedom, she must continue to evade her much older brothers, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, who wish to send her to boarding school to become a proper young lady.
A sequel to The Case of the Missing Marquess, this book stands alone; the first book is not a prerequisite to understanding the second. Written for older students, the writing is a bit slow at the beginning with somewhat advanced vocabulary. Moreover, some prior knowledge about social roles in Victorian England and the Marxist politics helps to understand the plot. The story includes all the classic elements of a good mystery with an exciting plot, suspense, clues and ciphers and that indescribable feeling that you must keep reading to find out what happens. Older fans of Blue Balliet’s Chasing Vermeer and The Wright 3 will love the ciphers. Likewise, Enola’s varying personas, imaginative escapes, secret doors, etc will intrigue readers who love adventure. With an exceptionally satisfying and surprising ending, Enola is positioned to continue solving mysteries using her wit and imagination. Recommended for students in grades 6-9.
Author: Nancy Springer
Publisher: Philomel Books, 2007
Reviewer: Kristine Wildner, Holy Apostles School, New Berlin, WI