I love the original Sherlock Holmes mysteries by A. Conan Doyle, but I’m wary of Holmes stories by other authors. While they can be entertaining, they never seem quite up to par as far as the depiction of Holmes and Watson and other Doyle characters goes. I was pleasantly surprised when I tried the first of this series. I loved it, and soon read the rest of the six books Springer wrote that were published from 2007 to 2010. Each book is exciting and historically convincing while at the same time revealing a side of British Victorian life barely touched by Doyle, the feminine side. The books are so good that they seem too short, and I found that these six together make a more complete and satisfying story, which is why I’m reviewing them as a group, as they’re often sold.
Enola Holmes is the young sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes (much younger) who lives with her mother in a small country estate. The brothers are estranged from their mother, and their father died when Enola was an infant, so mother Eudoria, and the small staff of the estate, are her only housemates. Eudoria encourages her daughter to be independent and learn from the books in their library rather than sending her to school. Enola’s mother is herself unconventional, an advocate of women’s rights who spends much of her time doing watercolor paintings. Enola grows up something of a tomboy who likes to climb trees and ride her bicycle, not realizing how atypical her life is. When she turns fourteen, Eudoria suddenly disappears. Foul play is ruled out, and it seems she has simply abandoned Enola and the estate for a new life somewhere unknown. She leaves behind a book of rhymes for Enola that turn out to be cryptic messages in a code that Enola gradually deciphers, messages that reveal hidden caches of bank notes.
Meanwhile, Sherlock and Mycroft have been informed of Eudoria’s disappearance, and they arrive at the estate, finding the house, grounds, and living arrangements shocking. Mycroft is the legal owner of the estate, and he has been sending his mother regular payments for all kinds of upkeep and a large staff of servants, money that has not been used as such (some is now secretly in the hands of Enola). The brothers decide that Enola must be sent to a boarding school where she can be turned into a marriageable young lady, something Enola is dead set against. Enola makes her plans, and runs away herself to London. On the way she becomes entangled in the mystery of a missing heir. Vowing to help find him, Enola explores London’s seamy East End, and soon finds herself captive alongside the missing boy.
Each of these books has a mystery involving a missing person that Enola must solve, and she gradually establishes herself as an expert at such cases, all the while eluding her brothers, who want to find her and send her off to finishing school. The stories are cleverly plotted, exciting, and full of fascinating information and well-rounded characters from all levels of society at the time, many of them women. Through the six books we see Enola becoming more confident in her own abilities, and eventually earning the respect of her brothers, who she often helps out without their knowledge. Enola sets up her own business, makes allies and enemies, and using a variety of disguises, becomes a part of London’s mystery-solving, crime-fighting elite like her brother Sherlock, though her adventures generally involve more personal danger.
These books are excellent, and I highly recommend them. While researching this article, I discovered that Nancy Springer has begun a new series of Enola Holmes books, and I’ve just bought the first one on Kindle. I look forward to reading it. I also read about the Netflix film based on the character, and decided I wouldn’t like it much, as it’s only slightly based on the books and goes in other directions. You can order the set below, or find them as ebooks. The most fun I’ve had with the Holmes family since I reread all the Doyle stories a few years ago.