14 January 2008

What I am Reading--The Case of the Left-Handed Lady

The second of the Enola Holmes Mysteries picks up where the first one left off. Enola, on the run from big brothers Mycroft and Sherlock (he of Baker Street fame,) has set herself up in a sort of Remington Steele situation, fronting for a pretend Dr. Ragostin, a renowned Perditorian (finder of lost things or people.) She is a bit of a master of disguise, is our Enola, as well as a master of codes and cyphers. She is still sending messages to her missing mother through the personal pages of London's top newspapers. Every so often she gets a reply. At only 14, Enola has to lay low for a good number of years yet until she comes into her majority and is finally free of her brothers' plans to send her to boarding school and make a proper lady out of her. So imagine her chagrin when her first client is none other than Dr. John Watson. He has actually come in the hopes of finding her. But instead he sets her on the trail of a vanished girl who sounds not unlike Enola herself: caring, conscientious, and not to be corseted.

I enjoyed The Case of the Missing Marquess, the first Enola Holmes mystery, immensely, and am eagerly awaiting the third, due for publication early this year. Author Nancy Springer gets to show off what must have been extensive research in preparation for these books with copious amounts of information about codes and ciphering in Victorian England. Enola's own interest in the subject serves her investigations well. When she inspects the room of the missing Lady Cecily, she not only sees the obvious codes, such as the sealing wax at the Lady's desk in various colors for various purposes (red for business, grey for friendship, violet for condolences) which anyone would notice, but the code of a frustrated, intense young woman. She sees the listless pastels, the shackles of an aristocratic life, hanging on the walls and recognizes enough in them to know that Lady Cecily's passion and attention is not on all things debutante.

Not even 100 pages into the book, and Enola has already survived a garroting attempt and accidental detection by her brother's business associate. Enola is bold, clever, and believable, and does the name of "Holmes" proud.

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