Another Teen Girl Sleuth--Sherlock's Little Sister: The Enola Holmes Mysteries by Nancy Springer
Nancy Springer, author of the previously reviewed and admirable Rowan Hood series about the adventures of Robin Hood's daughter, has embarked on a new series about a famous fictional character's relative, the Enola Holmes Mysteries. For Springer, a two-time Edgar Award winner, the sister of Sherlock Holmes is a natural subject, a Victorian girl endowed with a drive for intellectual and personal independence who shares her famous brother's powers of observation and reason.
Enola, by her very name, which spelled backward is "alone," is no stranger to her mother's penchant for ciphers and hidden meanings, especially of the botanical sort, but when her mother suddenly disappears on her fourteenth birthday, Enola feels that the birthday gifts left behind for her contain the secret of her mother's whereabouts. Her much-older brothers, Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes, are, however, clueless about the disappearance until an audit of the manor's accounts shows that their mother has been embezzling funds for years, enough to provide herself with considerable "mad money" far from the restraints of Victorian widowhood.
For Enola the brothers have a safe plan for their little-known young sister--into some good stout corsetry with her and off to a reputable boarding school where she can become a proper young lady suitable for a propitious marriage as soon as possible. Enola deciphers enough of her mother's cryptic gifts to locate a goodly sum of money left behind for her and takes it on the lam as soon as she is out of her brothers' sight.
Traveling by bicycle and railway and disguised in widow's weeds, Enola conceals her money and changes of clothing inside the "bust enhancers," "hip regulators," and "dress improvers" built into Victoria female garb. Almost by accident, Enola becomes involved in the search for a kidnapped twelve-year-old marquess, presumably abducted from his estate, and in a string of chases, narrow escapes, and near death experiences at the hands of several Dickensian villains, Enola keeps the action going as she puts together the clues to the identify of the mendacious kidnappers and, incidentally, the way to trace her mother's path to personal freedom. Escaping the Victorian trap to which her brothers' good intentions will lead, Enola disguises herself again and sets herself up in business as the go-between for her alter ego, Leslie T. Ragostin, Scientific Perditorian, finder of lost objects and lost persons.
Enola Holmes' engaging adventures continue in The Case of the Left-Handed Lady and the forthcoming (January 31, 2008) The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets. With an engaging teen girl sleuth in the best tradition of Nancy Drew, et al, a fresh historical setting, and the proper literary lineage, this series looks like more than a bit of all right.