Friday, October 30, 2020

REVIEW: Enola Holmes: The Case of the Missing Marquess (book) by Nancy Springer

Enola Holmes and the Case of the Missing Marquess is either a YA or Middle Grade historical mystery, depending on where you check. The writing felt Middle Grade to me, but due to some of the content (Enola stumbling across the poor beggar woman whose scalp had been completely taken over with ringworm, for example), I'd say probably the older end of the Middle Grade range or younger end of YA. 

This is the first book in Springer's Enola Holmes series, and the book upon which the new Netflix movie was based. I bought my copy of this brand new.


On Enola's fourteenth birthday, her mother disappears. Once she realizes what's happened and that her mother is nowhere nearby, Enola contacts her older brothers, Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes, who she hasn't seen since she was four, figuring that they, as brilliant as they are, could help. Instead, they seem more concerned about the condition of the estate and what Enola has been doing for the past ten years. Mycroft had been sending their mother funds for household expenses since their father died ten years ago, and she had apparently been squirreling that money away for her eventual escape. Enola, who is not pleased with Mycroft's plans to send her to boarding school, can understand her motive for what she did, but there is one question she desperately wants answered: why didn't her mother bring her with her when she left?

Using the gifts her mother left for her, Enola sets off to try answer that question but stumbles across a completely different mystery in the process: the missing Viscount Tewksbury, Marquess of Basilwether.

I watched the new Netflix movie before reading this book, and I knew going in that the book and the movie would be pretty different. My synopsis doesn't really make it clear just how different they are. The movie aged all of the younger characters up a few years (Enola went from 14 to 16, while Tewksbury went from 12 to at least 16), changed or intensified characters' personalities, and completely changed the plot after the point where Enola escaped to London on her own. There were even some things (like disguising herself as a boy) that Enola did in the movie but deliberately did not do in the book.

Overall, I liked the book more than the movie, but watching the movie first did leave me feeling a little off kilter while reading. Everything in the book felt more streamlined - both Tewksbury and Enola's mother's storylines were a lot simpler. But I could imagine liking Book Enola more than Movie Enola over the course of a series. She didn't morph into the female Sherlock I'd expected, but she did blossom in ways I appreciated while still making mistakes that were believable for a relatively sheltered and semi-neglected fourteen-year-old girl. I winced, hard, at her first really big mistake, but it helped that she, too, spent the rest of the book occasionally kicking herself for screwing up the way she did.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I thought Movie Sherlock was a better Sherlock Holmes in the ways that mattered than Book Sherlock, even though Henry Cavill was in no way believable as Sherlock. While I enjoyed Book Sherlock's determination to do right by Enola and become a better older brother (even if he did have nearly as low an opinion of her abilities and intelligence as Mycroft), I was dismayed at how useless he was. As far as I could tell, he made no progress in any of the various mystery storylines, and I've read just enough of the original Holmes stories to be highly doubtful that he'd get to the point of desperately asking Lestrade for help.

This was the first book in a series and very much felt like it. It set up the basic framework, introduced Enola and her brothers, and felt like it was over in a flash, with a bunch of story and character threads still left dangling. Despite my issues with it, I enjoyed it overall and will probably read the next book, if only for the possibility of more "flawed older brother Sherlock awkwardly trying to do right by his much younger sister." Although if Sherlock continues to lack Sherlockian deductive reasoning and observation skills, that may be where I stop.


A cipher solution section that explains how Enola deciphered the last message in the book, as well as an excerpt from Book 2.

No comments:

Post a Comment