Nancy Springer is finding her stride. Far from being derivative, Springer has effectively used the fame and atmosphere of the much-loved Holmes canon as a springboard to develop her Enola Holmes character, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes' younger sister, and to create a series that is exciting, entirely innovative, appealing and quite capable of standing on its own literary merit ... thank you very much!
Beginning with the very first mystery in the series, THE CASE OF THE MISSING MARQUESS, we have seen Enola Holmes' character develop, blossom and ultimately flourish as she pursues her career as a "perditorian" - a finder of lost things. She is forced to keep one eye constantly looking over shoulder as she deftly eludes the dogged pursuit of her elder brothers who seek to find her and place her in the stultifying environment of a school for proper young ladies - an ongoing problem she'll face until she reaches the age of majority and can legally live on her own. But, as her mother, who is also in hiding, was so fond of saying, Enola Holmes is doing very well on her own!
In THE CASE OF THE BIZARRE BOUQUETS, the third instalment in the series, Watson has been kidnapped and is being held incommunicado in a mental institution. If he is not found and released, the likelihood is that Watson will lose the battle to preserve his own sanity and become a permanent resident. For reasons that are quite mysterious, the kidnapper has chosen to communicate with Mrs Watson through the vehicle of floral bouquets with entirely unique combinations of flowers, weeds and even vegetables. But a grieving Mrs Watson and a frustrated Sherlock Holmes are not even aware that these "bizarre bouquets" constitute a message from the kidnapper. They believe them to be mere expressions of sympathy from anonymous friends who are worried about Dr Watson's continuing absence. With her intimate knowledge of the traditional symbolic meaning of flowers, Enola knows better and is hot on the scent of Dr Watson and his kidnapper.
I'm thrilled to witness this charming young adult series continue to grow in quality - deep characterization, effective dialogue, high quality plotting and, of course, wonderful attention to Victorian atmosphere and details that rivals Conan Doyle's original series. Sherlock and Mycroft are portrayed as typical 19th century men in their attitude toward women and whatever intellect they may possess. That is to say, they are at least patronizing and chauvinist and perhaps, in Mycroft's case, downright misogynist. As the title character and the leading lady in the series, Enola is exceptionally well developed. She exemplifies that baffling and ultimately paradoxical teenage blend of cock-sure bravado and angst and uncertainty; incipient adulthood contrasted against an occasional reversion to childhood fear; and, of course, self-direction and self-confidence versus the obvious desire for occasional adult guidance and assistance. Enola's budding femininity is also charmingly and endearingly presented in wonderfully good taste with all due regard to Victorian sensibilities.
Highly recommended for mystery lovers of all ages. I'm willing to bet that twenty years from now there will be a host of adult female readers who will look back on this series with the same fondness that many of today's adult women remember their love of the Nancy Drew series.
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