Nancy Springer is finding her stride. Far from being derivative, Springer has effectively used the fame and atmosphere of the much-loved Holmes canon as a springboard to develop her Enola Holmes character, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes' younger sister, and to create a series that is exciting, entirely innovative, appealing and quite capable of standing on its own literary merit ... thank you very much!
Beginning with the very first mystery in the series, THE CASE OF THE MISSING MARQUESS, we have seen Enola Holmes' character develop, blossom and ultimately flourish as she pursues her career as a "perditorian" - a finder of lost things. She is forced to keep one eye constantly looking over shoulder as she deftly eludes the dogged pursuit of her elder brothers who seek to find her and place her in the stultifying environment of a school for proper young ladies - an ongoing problem she'll face until she reaches the age of majority and can legally live on her own. But, as her mother, who is also in hiding, was so fond of saying, Enola Holmes is doing very well on her own!
In THE CASE OF THE PECULIAR PINK FAN, Lady Cecily Alistair, the missing marquess from Enola's very first case, is in trouble again. This time she's been kidnapped by her own family. Her two dowager aunts, both full-fledged, entirely insufferable battle-axes are holding her against her will and, with the full permission and collusion of her estate minded father, are forcing her into an arranged marriage against her will with a foppish but financially well-situated cousin.
Instead of watching an established series author sit back and bask in the warmth of previous successes, I'm thrilled to witness this charming young adult series continue to grow in quality - deep characterization, effective dialogue, high quality plotting and, of course, wonderful attention to Victorian atmosphere and details that rivals Conan Doyle's original series.
As the title character and the leading lady in the series, Enola is exceptionally well developed. While she is neither female chauvinist or militaristic suffragette, her independence and self-assuredness continue to grow as she lives on her own and approaches the age of majority at which point she will be free of her brothers' relentless pursuit. But she also exemplifies that baffling and ultimately paradoxical teenage blend of cock-sure bravado and angst and uncertainty; incipient adulthood contrasted against an occasional reversion to childhood fear; and, of course, self-direction and self-confidence versus the obvious desire for occasional adult guidance and assistance. Enola's budding femininity is also charmingly and endearingly presented in wonderfully good taste with all due regard to Victorian sensibilities.
Sherlock and Mycroft are portrayed as typical 19th century men in their attitude toward women and whatever intellect they may possess. That is to say, they are at least patronizing and chauvinist and perhaps, in Mycroft's case, downright misogynist. That said, the very special relationship between Enola and Sherlock seems to have turned a corner in this, Enola's fourth outing, as Sherlock develops a grudging respect for Enola's abilities and a tentative belief that, as their mother said so often, she just might be able to make it on her own.
Highly recommended for mystery lovers of all ages. I'm willing to bet that twenty years from now there will be a host of adult female readers who will look back on this series with the same fondness that many of today's adult women remember their love of the Nancy Drew series.