Title: The Case of the Missing Marquess (Enola Holmes, #1)
Author: Nancy Springer
Publication date: 2006
Length: 228 pages
Genre: Middle grade
Meet Enola Holmes, teenaged girl turned detective and the younger sister to Sherlock Holmes.
When Enola Holmes, sister to the detective Sherlock Holmes, discovers her mother has disappeared, she quickly embarks on a journey to London in search of her. But nothing can prepare her for what awaits. Because when she arrives, she finds herself involved in the kidnapping of a young marquess, fleeing murderous villains, and trying to elude her shrewd older brothers—all while attempting to piece together clues to her mother’s strange disappearance. Amid all the mayhem, will Enola be able to decode the necessary clues and find her mother?
After watching the delightful Netflix adaptation of this book (more about this below), I just had to check out the source material! I’m glad I did — the first book in Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes series is clever, funny, and full of adventure.
In The Case of the Missing Marquess, Enola wakes up on her 14th birthday to discover that her mother is missing. When her older brothers, Mycroft and Sherlock, arrive on the scene, it’s clear that they have no faith in the ability of a woman to fend for herself or to think rationally. As for what to do with Enola, boarding school is the obvious choice, as far as the men are concerned.
Enola is having none of it, and resolves to run off and go in search of her mother. Using clues left for her by her mother, Enola sets out in clever disguise, making use of the awful requirements of women’s dress (including corsetry and bustle) to find hiding places for money and other essentials.
Along her journey, she stumbles across the case of the missing Marquess — a 12-year-old boy from a prestigious family who’s been reportedly abducted, but Enola sees enough through her own perspective to realize that he’s probably run away as well.
As Enola travels to London, she crosses paths with the Marquess, and together they endure hardships, threats, near-death encounters with bad guys, and a thrilling escape.
By the end, Enola has not yet found her mother, but she’s learned a lot about the ways of the world, how women are viewed and how to use that to her own advantage, and how to survive on her own.
Enola is a delightful character, and the book is a fun caper story. It’s geared toward a younger crowd than YA, which is why I’d call it middle grade, although it might skew somewhere in between.
The writing and dialogue are clever, and it’s quite fun to see how Enola uses society’s view of women to her own ends, subverting the patriarchy right under the patriarchy’s chauvinistic noses.
I’m not sure that I’ll continue with the series — while this book was really enjoyable, I’m not really feeling the need to carry on with something that’s essentially a children’s book series. (If my kids were still in the the target age range, I might feel differently.)
In terms of the Netflix adaptation, well.. it’s not really a fair comparison! The books are a great read for the right age group, but as an adult, I just loved the Netflix version, its cast, and its super-clever approach to the story.
The adaptation also has a much more intricate plot and more story threads to unwind. I do wonder whether some of these other pieces will come into play in later books, but not really enough to make me want to keep reading.
I’d recommend the books for middle grade readers (and parents/teachers/friends of middle grade readers), but for adults looking to enjoy the essence of the story, Netflix’s Enola Holmes is the way to go!