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THE CASE OF THE LEFT-HANDED LADY:
An Enola Holmes Mystery
By Nancy Springer
Sleuth Philomel Penguin Young Readers Group, 2007 ($12.99)
Ages 10 and up
Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel
London, 1889. Two brothers are discussing the plight of their mother and younger sister, who have gone missing on separate occasions. One brother, the younger, is angry, blaming his sibling for trying to force their fourteen-year-old sister Enola into boarding school against her wishes. The eldest, Mycroft Holmes, claims it was the only rational way to reform the headstrong girl into a proper young lady. Sherlock, vowing to find her at any cost, set out to do just that. How hard could it be for the world famous detective to find a young girl?
Enola Holmes, whose name spelled backwards is Alone, feels very alone in her quest to maintain her independence in a time when women had few rights and had to answer to the men in their life for everything. Her free-spirited mother provided her with enough money to get by on her own, and instilled in her the strength and confidence to make it without having to answer to her brothers or a husband. She has opened a business for finding missing persons, calling herself "Miss Ivy Meshle." Knowing that nobody would think of doing business with a mere girl, she has invented Dr. Leslie T. Ragosten, Scientific Perditorian, to run the show. The good doctor is never around when clients come to call, oddly enough, so Ivy interviews the clients, assuring them Dr. R. will do the actual detective work. She is shocked when one of the first clients to walk in is Dr. John Watson, the close friend of her brother Sherlock. He tells her his friend is in a very bad way, distraught because his sister is missing and he fears she is in danger. The case would involve finding herself. What a dilemma! Of course she can’t do this, but she is pleased to know that Sherlock is upset at her absence.
Dr. Watson mentions another disappearance case, that of heiress Lady Cecily Alistair. Rumors abound that she has run away with a shopkeeper’s son, but he denies even knowing her. Using one of her disguises, she dresses as a gentlewoman and befriends Cecily’s mother, who allows her to try to find Cecily. Her quest takes her into the darkest, most dangerous areas of London, and brings her very close to danger, but her intelligence and skill carry her through safely.
Enola is an engaging character, and her adventures give us a lot of information about the social conditions of Victorian England through the eyes of the people who lived it. This is the second in the Enola Holmes series -- the first is THE CASE OF THE MISSING MARQUESS. Ms. Springer also has two other series for young readers, THE TALES OF ROWAN HOOD and THE TALES FROM CAMELOT.
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