A new detective from the Sherlock Holmes family
The Case of the Missing Marquess — Nancy Springer (Allen & Unwin, $16.99) reviewed by Louise Ward, Wardini Books.
Who knew Sherlock Holmes had a little sister?
In this novel for people of about 10 and up, Enola is the shame of the Holmes family; an inappropriate late lamb, many years the junior of Sherlock and Mycroft with whom she has had no contact since her father’s death when she was four. Their mother had a falling out with the boys and Enola has been left to ramble the family estate alone (Enola spelt backwards) until our novel begins with the disappearance of Mrs Holmes on, of all days, Enola’s 14th birthday.
Her famous brothers so far failing to solve the mystery, Enola decides to use the clues around her home to mount her own investigation. She ventures into the wider world she knows little about. She becomes embroiled in the disappearance of a local nobleman, 12-year-old Viscount Tewksbury, and she is thrilled to discover that her isolation has refined her powers of observation — she just might be a detective.
The story is written with the language and atmosphere of a young lady growing up in Victorian England. Enola, although raised by a progressive, rather bohemian mother, is required to have proper manners and dress. Bustles, corsets and covering ankles end up being handy for concealing essentials such as money, a book of ciphers and a pocket knife. Enola is an innocent abroad, shocked by a dirty, poor and violent London’s frightening criminal underclass.
She doesn’t immediately plan, deduce and solve but learns through harsh experience. By the end of the story it’s clear that there will be more mysteries for Enola Holmes to unravel.
This is a fast-paced, thrilling story that confronts the seamy, dark side of crime — there is mention of murder and prostitution — as well as cleverly using Victorian mores for humour and plot development.
Highly recommended for lovers of detective stories who are ready to get out of the boarding school trope and over to the darker side.