The case of Sherlock Holmes' missing younger sister! Whodathunkit?
Dec 17, 2009
Pitched at a reading level slightly higher than the justifiably famous (and now aging) Nancy Drew series, "The Case of the Missing Marquess" introduces young readers (who I predict will be thrilled to their toes) to Enola Holmes, the hitherto unknown, late-arriving younger sister of Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes.
Having just turned 14 years old, Enola discovers that her mother has disappeared leaving no clue as to her whereabouts. She is torn between loving devotion and worry for her mother's welfare and a deep sense of anger and disappointment at the possibility that her mother has simply left and abandoned her to her own devices. When she calls for the assistance of her two brilliant older brothers, she is horrified to discover that, having failed dismally to discover what happened to their mother, they mean to take over her life and force her to attend a stultifying boarding school for gentle young ladies.
Picking up the thread of the investigation herself, Enola quickly determines that her mother has left her coded clues as to her conduct. Enola also uncovers a significant stash of money which her mother had effectivelyl embezzled from the household accounts over a period of many years. When Enola also flies the coop cleverly disguised as a grieving wife in widow's weeds, she heads for London to find her mother and to evade her brothers' clutches and the impending spectre of boredom at boarding school.
The pedal goes to the metal and the story accelerates into high gear when Enola, far from maintaining a low profile and an effective disguise, finds herself involved in the kidnapping of Viscount Tewksbury, who is being held on a boat moored in the Thames River by a couple of very nasty thugs.
Despite being fiction aimed at younger readers, "The Case of the Missing Marquess" is engaging historical fiction which focuses on two main components of Victorian life - the seamier side of the Thames dockside district and the trials and tribulations faced by the feminine half of the population. As a character, 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. Sherlock, Mycroft and Lestrade, far from being satirized or poorly handled, conduct themselves exactly as any fan would think they might do faced with the situation of a missing mother and a worried younger sister.
What a great start to a new and exciting series. I'll definitely look forward to the next instalment. Highly recommended.
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