Title: Enola Holmes and the Elegant Escapade
Author: Nancy Springer
Genre: Historical Crime Fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 2nd August 2022
Synopsis: Enola Holmes, Sherlock’s much younger and feistier sister, returns in this new adventure in the internationally bestselling series and breakout Netflix sensation.
Enola Holmes, the much younger sister of Sherlock, is now living independently in London and working as a scientific perditorian (a finder of persons and things). But that is not the normal lot of young women in Victorian England. They are under the near absolute control of their nearest male relative until adulthood. Such is the case of Enola’s friend, Lady Cecily Alastair. Twice before Enola has rescued Lady Cecily from unpleasant designs of her caddish father, Sir Eustace Alastair, Baronet. And when Enola is brusquely turned away at the door of the Alastair home, it soon becomes apparent that Lady Cecily once again needs her help.
Affecting a bold escape, Enola takes Lady Cecily to her secret office only to be quickly found by the person hired by Lady Cecily’s mother to find the missing girl – Sherlock Holmes himself. But the girl has already disappeared again, now loose on her own in the unforgiving city of London.
Even worse, Lady Cecily has a secret that few know. She has dual personalities – one, which is left-handed, is independent and competent; the other, which is right-handed, is meek and mild. Now Enola must find Lady Cecily again – before one of her personalities gets her into more trouble than she can handle and before Sherlock can find and return her to her father. Once again, for Enola, the game is afoot.
Enola has been again summoned to help Lady Cecily Alastair, who has popped up in a couple of previous books. This time, Cecily is desperate to escape her tyrannical father, and expose his secrets. Cecily is the left-handed lady of previous books, who has been forced to use her right hand. Using her left hand, Cecily is confident and capable. Using her right hand, she is submissive, and she longs to break free and truly be herself. So it is up to Enola to help her, and to stop her brother Sherlock from thwarting her plans and taking Cecily back to her father. But will Sherlock and Enola find themselves working together again to help Cecily, and will someone from their past present a solution to their dilemma?
In the eighth outing for Enola, she is off on another case, where she utilises her disguises, and is thankfully, able to live alone in a women’s boarding house now, even if brother Sherlock knows where to find her. At least he is reasonable for the most part, and willing to work with her. I quite enjoyed this and found that they were both able to work together yet had different goals at first that somehow become entwined. I loved seeing the focus on Enola and Cecily, and the contrast of their lonely existences – Enola because she no longer has a mother, and Cecily because she is isolated from the rest of her family by her father in her own home. Something like this shows that there are different ways to be lonely, different ways to be female in the Victorian era, and the way gender and social norms seemed to rule and dictate how people did certain things in certain ways.
The eighth story builds on the previous ones, and yet, is its own entity as well. It delightfully references previous stories and events, giving us links back to previous stories and events to invite us back into Enola’s world after our time away. It is best read as part of the series, and will enthral fans of the series, and it gives us hope that Cecily’s life will improve and that her father’s dark secrets will be uncovered – if Enola and Sherlock can find the evidence in time and find a way to expose the secrets to help Cecily. As Cecily grapples with her dual personalities, Enola pushes forward to help her friend. It is a novel of female empowerment, showing the diverse range of things women tried to do and accomplish in the face of patriarchy, and the attitudes that Enola comes up against based on Victorian era laws. Sherlock is an intriguing character in these books – conflicted, one might say, as he grapples with abiding by the norms and laws of the time, but also feeling as though he needs to, and wants to, help his sister. They seem rather close, which perhaps is what helps Sherlock allow Enola to follow her own path, though one can see he would like to protect her. It made the novel enjoyable as it allowed me to see him as he thought he should be but also, how he wanted to be.
I think this novel will appeal to fans of the series, and I hope people enjoy it.