Fourteen-year-old Enola Holmes, younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, appears in this, her fifth adventure. Enola has been on the run since her first appearance in The Case of the Missing Marquess, fearful of her brothers' intention to enroll her in a private boarding school for girls. They are motivated by what they believe is her best interests, now that her mother has disappeared, and they cannot understand why she flees whenever she comes into contact with them.
The problem is that they have no idea what is best for Enola, because they don't really know her at all. Enola has set herself up as a private investigator - only she must pose as the investigator's secretary, because who in 19th-century London would consult a female detective? In this mystery, Enola's landlady receives a mysterious message that is frightening and confusing, and she asks Enola for help. Before Enola can find out very much, her landlady is abducted, the flat turned upside down, and the only clue Enola finds is the embroidery on the crinoline of an old dress in her landlady's wardrobe.
I do love this series. Enola is such an engaging heroine - she is determined and resourceful, and despite the fact that she is so very much alone, she retains her pluck and impulsive kindness. The mysteries that she solves invariably involve elements that are particularly feminine, things that the thugs who have ransacked the apartment (and her confirmed bachelor brothers) would never notice or understand, such as the language of flowers or the importance (or incongruity) of such lovely embroidery on a garment no one would ever see but the wearer. This particular book was more interesting to me for the characters involved. I loved that deaf old Mrs. Tupper, a very minor character in the past few novels, suddenly became a real person in this book. It surprised me as much as it did Enola, and the peek into Mrs. Tupper's past was fascinating. The mystery itself seemed rather obvious as compared to previous books in the series, but the historical background (particularly as it related to the Crimean War and Florence Nightingale) gave it depth and interest.
I was saddened to learn (see the interview link below) that this is the penultimate book in the Enola series. I am anxious for a reconciliation between Enola and her brothers - on her terms of course - however, and as each book in the series involves a small bit of progress as far as their relationship is concerned, I am hopeful about a positive resolution to the series. This is an excellent choice for young readers who enjoy mysteries and are ready to move beyond Nancy Drew and other such mystery series, as well as those who are interested in history and those who simply enjoy a strong, intelligent female protagonist.
Here is a fascinating interview with Nancy Springer in which she discusses her thoughts about the Enola Holmes series.
Books in the Enola Holmes series:
1. The Case of the Missing Marquess
2. The Case of the Left-Handed Lady
3. The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets
4. The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan
5. The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline
6. The Case of the Gypsy Goodbye (forthcoming 2010)
The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline (#5 in the Enola Holmes series) by Nancy Springer (Philomel Books, 2009)
Have you reviewed this book? Please leave your link in the comments and I will add it to my review. (That goes for any of my other reviews, too!)