Sunday, March 8, 2009
REVIEW: The Case of the Missing Marquess
Springer, N. (2006). An Enola Holmes Mystery: The Case of the Missing Marquess.
New York: Puffin Books.
After her mother has gone missing, Enola Holmes must call for her two older brothers, one of whom is the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. Threatened with boarding school, Enola instead decides to escape to search for her mother. She happens upon another mystery of a ten-year-old Marquess who is missing from his home. Enola’s search for both the Marquess and her mother will take her to London where she encounters a number of different characters and dangers.
Enola’s voice feels authentic to the time period. This is both a strength and weakness of the novel. While giving it an authentic feel, it may make it harder for some readers to engage with. The text is well-researched and gives a lot of sensory details to try to bring the reader in.
The experience of British women in the late nineteenth century is central to this novel. It shows the expectations upon women and the feminist experience and search for freedom within a restrictive society. And it serves as a strong start to the series of books showing Enola's mysterious cases that have followed it.
I am nerdy enough to have grown up, believing the character of Sherlock Holmes to be downright sexy. Springer, at least for a large portion of the novel, manages to challenge this perception by having Holmes wander around encouraging pity for his young sister due to her small “cranial capacity.” His perception of women, while authentic and humorous, angered my feminist sensibilities. Which, you know, is the point.
Activities to do with the book:
There are many lessons that this book could be incorporated into, especially those involving the history of Great Britain, the women’s movement, Western thought and philosophy, the meaning and significance of flowers or exploration of Sherlock Holmes as a character.
Students could create illustrations to accompany the story. This could take the form of portraits of the characters or even studies of flowers.
“I would very much like to know why my mother named me “Enola,” which, backwards, spells alone. Mum was, or perhaps still is, fond of ciphers, and she must have had something in mind, whether foreboding or a sort of left-handed blessing or, already, plans, even though my father had not yet passed away” (p. 5).
“I remembered Dr. Watson’s listing of my brother’s accomplishments: scholar, chemist, superb violinist, expert marksman, swordsman, singlestick fighter, pugilist, and brilliant deductive thinker.
Then I formed a mental list of my own accomplishments: able to read, write and do sums; find birds’ nests; dig worms and catch fish; and, oh yes, ride a bicycle” (pp. 29-30).
“What on earth was he saying? That Mum had abandoned me? I sat with my mouth ajar.
“Pity the girl’s cranial capacity, Mycroft,” Sherlock murmured to his brother” (p. 49).