BOOK ONE: ENOLA HOLMES MYSTERY SERIES. When Enola Holmes, sister to the detective Sherlock Holmes, discovers her mother has disappeared, she quickly embarks on a journey to London in search of her. But nothing can prepare her for what awaits. Because when she arrives, she finds herself involved in the kidnapping of a young marquess, fleeing murderous villains, and trying to elude her shrewd older brothers - all while attempting to piece together clues to her mother's strange disappearance. Amid all the mayhem, will Enola be able to decode the necessary clues and find her mother?
I am partial to historical mysteries especially when those tall tales count females in the leading role of spymaster. You can imagine my bliss when I found this junior fiction series about a much younger sister to Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes setting about to solve her own puzzles. With the resurgence of interest in Sherlock Holmes via feature films and TV series (the BBC TV version is top notch) we are a market of readers primed and ready for a London mystery.
Overall I highly enjoyed this opening book to the Enola Holmes Mystery series. Granted, she acts quite mature for a 14 year old, but then, she is related to the legendary Sherlock Holmes who was known for more brains than social grace so we can forgive Enola if she is not cut from the usual cloth.
The mystery component to this book has some nice twists and layers that get added as the book progresses. I enjoyed the puzzles for readers to try to solve without laboring too heavily before they are revealed. I found the snippets with her brothers highly amusing and her resourcefulness a great role model for my own daughters.
Author Nancy Springer has done a nice tidy bit of research that we benefit from including lesser known stories about the trials and construction materials of women's corsets, the strict nature of boarding schools and the sad truth about workhouses in London at that time in history.
My daughter and I are now both quite excited to read the rest of the Enola Holmes mystery series but as a parent I give some words of caution. The book starts off with a fairly grim prelude - large rats underfoot, the smell of sewage, pitch black night, a prostitute propositioning a client, people sleeping on the street...For the most part the book walks a light line in comparison to the dark prelude and it's a better book for it. I'm all for realism and teaching history, but if I'm going to pass this junior fiction book to my 10 year old daughter I'm not so keen on having her read that 'a prostitute's body was found dead the week before, split wide open'. For us adult readers, this eludes to Jack the Ripper, but thankfully, this is the darkest, smallest portion of disturbance in an otherwise non-violent book. I highly recommend skipping that prologue - it never surfaces in the novel itself and who needs a blunt smack to the head before embarking on a fairly light, entertaining story overall?