The second installment of Nancy Spinger’s Enola Holmes series recounts the adventures of Sherlock Holmes’s younger sister as she travels the streets of London trying to solve the mystery of a kidnapped heiress. The novel opens with Enola having fled from her brother Sherlock who holds the traditional views that she must commit her life to boarding school and then prepare herself for marriage.
To retain her freedom, Enola strikes out on her own and goes into the detective business by setting up shop as one Dr. Ragostin, Scientific Perditorian (the term is obscure, but seems to mean someone who finds something that is lost) . As she is female, she cannot be Dr. Ragostin himself, who does not exist anyway, so she artfully poses as his secretary and teases out the information from all of the potential clients that walk through the door. This is how she gets her cases. One of these customers is Dr. Watson, who does not recognize Enola, and acts as a proxy for Sherlock to track down his missing sister. Enola realizes that she must be crafty to elude her intelligent brother.
Through her landladies, Enola hears of another mystery that captures her attention. Lady Cecily, the daughter of a local wealthy family, has gone missing from her bed one night, a ladder found outside her window. Donning a series of disguises, Enola is able to interview her parents and soon discovers that Lady Cecily has dealing with the underground labor movement in London. A series of twists and turns ensue, but Enola is able to finally locate the young lady and discover that she is the victim of a power hungry villain.
Readers looking for a strong female protagonist will relish these Enola Holmes books. Enola is intelligent, cunning, and fiercely independent. In fact, her name spelled backwards is ‘alone. Older readers may appreciate how Springer has obviously done her homework in bringing late nineteenth century London to life. From the fashion to the different dialects, one feels immersed in the seedy and dark side of this dangerous city.
I’d recommend these Enola Holmes mysteries to readers ages 9 to 11 looking for a historical mystery series featuring a strong heroine.