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By Nancy Springer

Philomel Books, a Division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2008 ($14.99)
ISBN-10: 0399247807
ISBN-13: 978-0-399-24780-4

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

Fourth in the Enola Holmes mystery series.

Enola Holmes, the much-younger sister of Mycroft and Sherlock, is only fourteen years old but wise (and resourceful) beyond her years. Her guardian, Mycroft, and her role model Sherlock worry about her future. She is, Sherlock remarks, "a true daughter of our Suffragist mother," an independent and free-spirited girl with a keen interest in criminal activities. This is not the sort of woman a man chooses for a bride, the only "occupation" a well-bred young woman is suited for. Enola does not share her brothers’ opinions in the matter. She has escaped from the stifling bonds of her brothers’ care, opening her own private investigation agency. Since she is well aware that Victorian society would never accept a woman in this role, she disguises her self as "Dr. Ragostin, Scientific Perditorian." Dressed as "Ivy Meshle," the doctor’s assistant, she drums up business and runs the office. Like her brother Sherlock, she is a master of disguises -- not on his level just yet, but she can make herself up to suit most situations.

While visiting a "public place" -- a posh ladies’ restroom in a department store, she spots a familiar face -- none other than Lady Cecily Alistair, who appeared in The Case of the Left-Handed Lady. Enola came to her rescue then, and it appears that her help is needed once more. Cecily slips her a gaudy pink fan, a plea for assistance, and Enola is on the case. She deduces that the lady’s father has plotted her future in a most unpleasant way, one Enola can readily relate to, and she sets out to save the young woman from a Fate Almost Worse than Death.

As she starts detecting, she learns that Sherlock is also on the case, hired by the girl’s mother. The two team up for a brief time, and when they part Enola realizes she is becoming fond of her big brother, despite his wanting to squelch her spirit and make behave as a "normal" young lady should. She yearns for the closeness of family, at the same time fearing that closeness would rob her of her independence.

Enola is a fresh, engaging character. Even though she "lived" in Victorian times, modern kids will be able to relate to her. They’ll probably get a kick out of her description of how the young ladies of that time dressed, in corsets and petticoats and layers and layers of cloth. Her vivid description of how the less fortunate lived will likely be not only educational, but make them realize how fortunate they are to be living in a modern world.

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