I confess. I love Sherlock Holmes. I grew up reading the Conan Doyle stories, and as an adult reader, I have found great enjoyment…and some disappointment…in the ways other authors have decided to write about the great detective. Of all the Holmes treatments out there, I have to say that Laurie King’s Mary Russell series is far and away my favorite, although Carol Nelson Douglas runs a close second with her Irene Adler series. Even so, I almost always pick up any new book that has Sherlock as a character. And so, it was with great delight that I found Nancy Springer’s The Case of the Missing Marquess, which introduces a lovely new character — Enola Holmes, much younger sister of the Great Detective.
The story opens with Enola pondering the backwards meaning of her name — alone — as she waits for her mother to return to their home. Mum never shows up, and Enola is at first angry because it is, after all, her birthday; but then when Mum is still missing the following day, Enola becomes frightened. After a fruitless search of the rain-soaked grounds, Enola reluctantly sends to London for her two much older brothers…Sherlock and Mycroft. Once they arrive, Enola slowly learns more about the rift between her mother and brothers, and gradually loses hope that the men will find her mother. Enola also learns more about her mother, and even more about the way women are expected to behave in polite society. She rebels against Mycroft’s attempts to “civilize” her, and ditches the whole family while she in enroute to boarding school. In usual Holmesian fashion, Enola then gets caught up in the disappearance of the wealthy son of a Duke. Her adventures are plenty fun and well worthy of the Holmes moniker.
I was particularly struck by the cleverness of the female characters here, and Enola herself says at the end that she has discovered a whole world of feminine secrets that her brother Sherlock, no matter how brilliant his mind, will never penetrate. She uses those secrets to communicate with her mother, who, like Enola, freed herself from the confines of polite society and has chosen to spend the rest of her days roaming the countryside with Gypsies, “blooming in the sun.” I liked this story, and really liked Enola. It’s a short book, and is intended for a younger audience, say 12 and up. Holmes fans will definitely want to become acquainted with this newest member of the family.