Friday, November 25, 2011

A Review: The Case of the Left-handed Lady: An Enola Holmes Mystery

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Book Review of 

The Case of the Left-Handed Lady, by Nancy Springer


 Enola Holmes has avoided being sent to boarding school by her brothers Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. At fourteen years old in Victorian London she should still be in the care of men, and should be practicing feminine arts of crafts and become a lady worthy of marriage. But Enola has other ideas. Having been left by her mother (because her mother believes she is capable of running her own life), she uses money left to her to open up her own shop to find missing persons and things under a fake name: Dr. Ragostin: Scientific Perditorian. She pretends to be Ivy Meschle, Dr. Ragostin's young secretary, while she in fact solves the cases. She takes on the case of a missing young woman called Miss Cecily who has been in communication with a young merchant's son and expresses to him her leanings toward equality of the classes. Meanwhile, Enola must balance her own feelings of loneliness with her feelings for independence, and try not to be caught by her intelligent brother Sherlock, whom she's sure would send her away to boarding school to make a respectable young lady out of her.
Springer, N. (2007). The case of the left-handed lady. New York, NY: Philomel Books.


 I like this series because you don't need to read the books in order, which is useful when suggesting this books to children because you don't have to rely on having the right one available at all times. Enola is a great character. She's smart and courageous, and wickedly independent. But she isn't stoic, and the reader often commiserates with her loneliness.  I think this book may really connect with kids in middle school-- a time when children often struggle with the need for independence and the need for acceptance and friendship.  Enola's situation-- having a mother who is independent and expects Enola to be the same-- is unique because it allows this young protagonist in a very male-dominant world to be the main character and running her own show, which is very empowering.  Boys and girls alike will appreciate her wittiness and her courage, but young girls will also appreciate the feminist angle of this story set in Victorian England, a notably oppressive time for women seeking independence.  Although it has some of these serious issues, the book remains a light easy mystery, but is historical in setting as well.  Those who appreciate historical settings and commentary would appreciate this book.

Professional Reviews:

"In The Missing Marquess (2006), Springer introduced 14-year-old Enola Holmes, Sherlock's younger sister. In this book, Enola starts her own detective agency in London, complete with costumes and circumventions to hide her age. When a young lady of privilege goes missing, Enola uses several of her personas to find the girl. The mystery, laced with buzzwords of the time, won't have much resonance for contemporary kids, but Enola is beautifully drawn, as are the sights and sounds of late-nineteenth-century London. A surprise reunion for Enola will touch readers."
Cooper, I. (2007, March 15).  [Review of the book The case of the left-handed lady, by N. Springer]. Booklist. Retrieved from

"Young Sherlock Holmes fans will delight in Nancy Springer's sophisticated and absorbing mystery (Philomel, 2007), the second title in a series featuring Enola Holmes, the famed detective's younger sister. Enola, age 14, goes into hiding so as not to be sent to a finishing school by her older brothers. Using disguises, she makes up a detective agency and sets herself up as the secretary, intending to solve the cases herself. A visit from Sherlock Holmes's friend Dr. Watson inadvertently brings her a missing persons mystery to solve. Enola need to keep herself hidden from her brothers and society while braving the dangers of the London streets makes for a fast-paced and suspenseful tale. Narrator Katherine Kellgren is a master at the haughty British accents necessary for the high society of the Victorian era, always keeping a measured and engaging tone."
Bilton, K.T. (2007, December 1). [Review of the book The case of the left-handed lady, by N. Springer]. School Library Journal. Retrieved from

Other Uses: 

Have a contest at your library where kids must create their own special code to communicate with, which includes a key to the code. Post the five best codes up on a wall to reward those with the most creative or difficult to unlock code, giving them an "Enola Holmes Code" award.


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