Wednesday, January 27, 2021

REVIEW: The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline (book) by Nancy Springer

The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline is the fifth book in Springer's Enola Holmes historical mystery series. I bought my copy brand new.


When Mrs. Tupper, Enola's landlady, asks her for help with a cryptic message she recently received, Enola can't refuse. What information does this person think Mrs. Tupper has, and what is the connection to Scutari, the British headquarters in Turkey during the Crimean War? All Mrs. Tupper can say is that when she was younger, she and her husband journeyed to the Crimea so that her husband could sell goods to the soldiers there. Mr. Tupper died horribly of Crimean fever, and Mrs. Tupper survived with the help of the nurse who tended to her husband in his last hours. 

Mrs. Tupper swears she doesn't know who sent the message or why they sent it, but whoever it is believes she must know something, because Enola returns home one evening to find that she's been kidnapped. Suddenly this case is a matter of life or death.

I liked the first half of this series well enough, despite my issues with Springer's version of Sherlock Holmes, but the second half of this series is turning out to be much better. I'm actually a little sad that I only have one more book to go after this one.

I really like it when Enola has a personal connection to the mystery she's investigating, and I got that in spades here. I wasn't expecting her to suddenly realize that Mrs. Tupper was a sort of mother figure to her, a more caring one than the mother who gave birth to her, but I kind of liked that development, and I'm hoping that it will make whatever happens between her and her mother in the final book less painful. 

In general, I really liked Mrs. Tupper. I'd previously thought it was a little too convenient that she never seemed to ask questions about her strange lodger who sometimes came and went looking like a completely different person, so it was nice to learn that she wasn't quite as dense and unobservant as she'd seemed. Her backstory was tragic, and she was clearly a much stronger woman than I'd given her credit for, considering the life she'd managed to build for herself after what she went through during the Crimean War.

I know almost nothing about Florence Nightingale, so Springer's version of her didn't have to compete with any mental image I'd built up. Personally, I thought that the way Springer worked her into the story worked out extremely well. 

And now for Sherlock. This was the first time in the series that Springer's Sherlock actually looked competent. He appeared when I'd have expected him to, and for once Springer didn't include a scene in which he saw important evidence but missed it simply because it had some feminine connection that made it beneath his notice.

There were still some spots that made me wince, like Sherlock's continued inability to recognize the reasons why Enola couldn't bring herself to fully trust him. This book also brought back the whole "tyranny of the tight corset" thing, which was apparently Enola's #1 reason for not wanting to be sent back to boarding school. By this point, I'd have thought that all the restrictions boarding school would put on her time and behavior would also be a concern, but what do I know?

At any rate, I enjoyed this entry in the series a lot, and I'm looking forward to reading the final book.


An author's note about Florence Nightgale, an image explaining the code used in the book, and an excerpt from the next book.

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