I’m always on the lookout for something that piques the curiosity and interest of Lulu, age twelve-going-on-twenty. I have a sneaking suspicion that mystery might be her genre, though fantasy is her current interest (well, that and all things 39 Clues). In anticipation of a short road trip she and I were to take together, I checked out the audiobook of an Enola Holmes mystery by Nancy Springer. So far as I could tell, The Case of the Left-Handed Lady is one of the first in the series, so I thought we shouldn’t have any trouble following it. It turns out that this was certainly true–we were engrossed! Enola Holmes is the much, much, much younger sister of Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes, and at the mature age of fourteen she has been granted her independence by her forward-thinking mum and has quite a life on her own in London. Like her older brother Sherlock, Enola has quite a knack for solving mysteries, but she’s so much more than that! She has learned how to navigate a man’s world in London by her own wits. She has a small but effective collection of disguises and alter-egos, and she goes about London both solving mysteries and doing good. In this particular volume, she works to both solve the mystery of wealthy young woman’s disappearance, all the while communicating via cipher with her mother and staying clear of her brother Sherlock, who’s in cahoots with Mycroft to make a proper young lady of her.
There’s much to love about this book, and I would assume by conjecture, about the series. Set in Victorian England, it has just the right flavor for me. Wikipedia calls it a pastiche of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and I’ll admit it makes me want to delve into Sir Arthur Conan Doyle a bit and see if I like the originals. It’s well written–what I’d call both clever and witty. I loved pointing out to Lulu when Enola used deductive reasoning as Lulu has been learning about inductive versus deductive reasoning in her math studies. (She, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as thrilled about it. 😉 ) The historical setting of the story is quite developed. Enola Holmes is a first wave feminist, her birthright as the daughter of a rather avant garde mother. This particular story goes into class warfare, Social Darwinism, labor strikes, etc. I enjoyed that part a lot and hoped against hope that Lulu was taking it all in. 😉 I’d definitely classify this as young adult rather than juvenile fiction; there’s some violence as well as veiled references to the seedy underbelly of Victorian London. I really wish that our libraries had them in book format; instead, I’ll either have to buy them (something I’m trying to do less of these days) or just stick to the audiobooks. It’s a good thing they’re well done! Katherine Kellgren does a fantastic job as the narrator of this particular tale. We first fell in love with her voice via The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, and I have to say that it’s just as fitting as Enola Holmes and her various aliases as Penelope Lumley. We give both the story and the audiobook a Highly Recommended!