ENOLA HOLMES AND THE BLACK BAROUCHE, by Nancy Springer, Wednesday Books, Aug. 31, 2021, Hardcover, $17.99 (young adult)
Sherlock’s sister returns in her first adventure since the hit Netflix movie brought her back on the national bestseller lists in Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche, by Nancy Springer.
Enola Holmes is the much younger sister of her more famous brothers, Sherlock and Mycroft. But she has all the wits, skills, and sleuthing inclinations of them both. At fifteen, she’s an independent young woman — after all, her name spelled backwards reads ‘alone’ — and living on her own in London.
When a young professional woman, Miss Letitia Glover, shows up on Sherlock’s doorstep, desperate to learn more about the fate of her twin sister, it is Enola who steps up. It seems her sister, the former Felicity Glover, married the Earl of Dunhench and per a curt note from the Earl, has died. But Letitia Glover is convinced this isn’t the truth, that she’d know — she’d feel — if her twin had died.
The Earl’s note is suspiciously vague and the death certificate is even more dubious, signed it seems by a John H. Watson, M.D. (who denies any knowledge of such). The only way forward is for Enola to go undercover — or so Enola decides at the vehement objection of her brother. And she soon finds out that this is not the first of the Earl’s wives to die suddenly and vaguely — and that the secret to the fate of the missing Felicity is tied to a mysterious black barouche that arrived at the Earl’s home in the middle of the night. To uncover the secrets held tightly within the Earl’s hall, Enola is going to require help — from Sherlock, from the twin sister of the missing woman, and from an old friend, the young Viscount Tewkesbury, Marquess of Basilwether! —Synopsis provided by Wednesday Books
For many people, the first time they heard of Enola Holmes was through Netflix. But Enola has been around for much longer than that.
In 2006, author Nancy Springer launched The Enola Holmes Mysteries with The Case of the Missing Marquess. It was followed by The Case of the Left-Handed Lady (2007); The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (2008); The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan (2008); The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline (2009); and The Case of the Gypsy Goodbye (2010).
The good news for readers new to these books is that it’s suitable for new or returning audiences. A prologue gives a quick recap of events and perfectly sets the stage for jumping right in.
The initial lure of Enola is a strong young woman protagonist who isn’t afraid to follow her heart. But the real star is Springer’s prose. Enola’s voice is clear and conversational. You feel as if she’s recounting her tale directly to you. This makes for light and entertaining reading, balancing out darker moments.
As with any mystery, the devil is in the details. Springer could easily get lost in those, but chooses instead to dole them out in increments, allowing readers to act as sleuths in conjunction with Enola.
I’ve seen a number of reviews complaining that Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche is “too short” and “not over 300 pages.” This seems odd since the other Enola books are all approximately the same length. The latest novel comes in at 272 pages. Perhaps readers are forgetting the intended audience is young adults? Perhaps they equate “longer” with “better”? Whatever the reason, the criticism is unfounded.
Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche is a fast-moving mystery that leaves you wanting more.