Thursday, July 24, 2008
The Case of the Left Handed Lady
by Nancy Springer
Enola spelled backwards is alone, and that is exactly the situation that Enola finds herself in. She's had no contact from her mother and she is still on the run from her brothers (Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes) in order to not have to go to boarding school and become a "proper" lady. She uses a series of disguises to keep herself busy and allude capture. First there's the nightly visits as a sister of mercy - helping the poor and needy in London; then she's also been hired by Dr. Watson to find none other than herself; next she's also decided to try to find the missing teenage daughter of Sir Eustance Austair; finally, she's still constantly on the look out for any sign of her mother. When she discovers that her brother Sherlock is actually concerned for her welfare, she makes an effort to let him know that she's ok, but still has every desire to stay away. Will she be able to remain free from her brothers and solve her new case?
I read the first Enola Holmes mystery thinking that it was an early reader (maybe a step above Judy Moody, but below Gregor the Overlander), which it definately was not. The writing is superb and quite a bit more advanced than Gregor, though it should still be readable by the older elementary school crowd. However, I didn't particularly enjoy it. Since most people really liked Enola, and I am always up to a good mystery, I decided to give this one a chance. I'm really glad I did!
Enola is an interesting character who seems wise beyond her years. Possibly this is due to her odd upbringing and the fact that she's quite bright, but she really doesn't feel like a 14 year old when I read her. Other than that little aside, she really is interesting. Knowing that her brothers probably think she is dressed up as a boy, she chooses instead to remain "hidden" by dressing as various women and working right out in the open. She cleverly uses clothing required at the time (ie corsets) to her advantage and seems to have a gift in disguises.
I'm not sure how much I liked how Sherlock was portrayed in this book - I love the grouchy old Holmes with all of my heart. But, I do tend to think that even grouchy old men hold a soft spot somewhere, and if his soft spot is for his much younger sister than so be it. He plays such a minor roll that I try not to worry about it.
The mystery itself was pretty good as well. I'm not really sure I understood the significance of the left hand - or at least why Enola jumped on it so quickly when she realized that Miss Austair used her left hand to draw some pictures. However, the mystery felt real, and kept me guessing for a while (I did figure most of it out before Enola), which is the most important aspect for me in a good mystery.
Overally, I enjoyed the book quite a bit, and I think I will re-read the first. Maybe I was just so shocked by how much better the story was developed that I had imagined that I judge the book prematurely.
4 out of 5 stars
Oh, the first one is called: The Case of the Missing Marquess and you do not have to read it first, though it will help explain why Enola is on the run and what happened to her mother.
Posted by KT at 10:23 AM