Sep 29 2020

The Case of the Left-Handed Lady (Enola Holmes #2) by Nancy Springer

I absolutely panicked when I read somewhere that the Netflix movie Enola Holmes is based on more than the first novel in the book series, The Case Of The Missing Marquess, so borrowed this to squeeze in between the eleventy billion deadlines I’m facing (I was wrong, btw: the movie is based on only that first.) Fortunately, The Case Of The Left-Handed Lady is a fast read, like its predecessor. Unfortunately, it somehow manages to be slighter, despite the wealth of material introduced here.

Enola Holmes has successfully eluded her elder brothers, Sherlock and Mycroft, and saved the life of a marquess. Now established as the working class secretary for a nonexistent “perditologist”, she’s waiting for her first case to arrive so she might prove herself via her creation, Dr Ragostin. But then Dr John Watson of all people walks in, wanting to hire Dr Ragostin to search for, well, herself. Deciding to stall him, she picks up a lead to an actual case through their conversation: the disappearance of Lady Cecily Alistair, who is thought to have eloped but is nowhere to be found.

Enola undertakes several clever disguises as she ingratiates herself to Lady Cecily’s mother before going in search of the teenaged girl on her own. She also runs into trouble while performing her night-time charitable acts as the Sister Of The Streets. There’s a lot of sharp social commentary and a wealth of historical detail, as Sherlock eventually sniffs out her trail and comes in hot pursuit, even as Enola herself keeps sending signals to her mother for help, or at least news, through newspaper ads. The scenes where their investigations collide make for the best part of this novel.

Unfortunately, the main plot involving Lady Cecily’s disappearance is… really not great. Enola jumps to all sorts of conclusions, and while her legwork is exemplary, I found the denouement of who and howdunnit to be surprisingly weak. I also thought it unlikely that Sherlock wouldn’t decipher the language of flowers, but was willing to suspend my disbelief for that. The use of the howdunnit, on the other hand, was not something I could swallow, especially given Enola’s own opinions on the subject.

I’ve heard that this second is the weakest in the series, so will likely try to pick up some of the rest as soon as my schedule allows. Hopefully, I’ll also get the chance to review the movie soon!

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