• Happy birthday Gregory Maguire (What-the-Dickens, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister).
  • In 1934, the cartoon character Donald Duck makes his debut in The Wise Little Hen. Hence, it is Donald Duck Day. Read The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck by Don Rosa, Donald Duk by Frank Chin, and Duck by Randy Cecil.
  • It’s the birth date of Patricia Clapp (1912-2003), Jane-Emily, The Tamarack Tree.
  • In 1959, Queen Elizabeth II officially opens the London Gatwick Airport. Read A Plane Goes Ka-Zoom! by Jonathan London, illustrated by Denis Roche and This is London by Miroslav Sasek.

Around this time of year many school children find themselves on summer vacation, often with an assignment to read a number of books over the summer.  I myself was never so happy as a child as when I had unlimited time to read and a pile of new offerings by my chair.

Well, if you have some influence over what your children, ages ten through fourteen, pick up during the summer, and if they are you are fans of Sherlock Holmes, then give them Edgar Award–winning author Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes Mysteries series that begins with The Case of the Missing Marquess.

Women did not figure prominently in the all-male world of Holmes, but Nancy Springer has rectified this situation. She imagines that Holmes has a much younger sister, Enola. The young girl lives on the family estate with her mother, who has penchant for creating art and solving ciphers. Enola’s brothers Sherlock and Mycroft reside in London. Then, on Enola’s fourteenth birthday, her mother suddenly vanishes.

Eventually, of course, the famous detective and Mycroft arrive to solve the case, and Enola begins to discover a few things about her mother that she didn’t know. Since property could not be owned by a woman, upon her father’s death ownership passed to her brothers. Her mother then started deceiving Mycroft about the accounts and embezzling from the inheritance. Enola discovers a cipher book, given as a birthday present, that leads her to discover large sums of money her mother has stashed away.

Neither Mycroft nor Sherlock seem particularly sympathetic figures; both hold women in low regard. Their ignorance allows Enola to formulate a plan of action—to execute an escape of her own. When she gets wrapped up in the disappearance of a missing young marquess who has also run away, however, her plan begins to change. How the two join forces, outsmart their captors in London, and give the Holmes brothers quite a headache makes for a delightful romp of a novel. In the end Enola has cleverly made contact with her mother—and is set up in her own business, a situation ideal for subsequent volumes in the series,

The book maintains all of Victorian England’s wonderful details as the original stories and contains a protagonist many young readers will find  sympathetic.

If they get on a Sherlock Holmes kick, they will also enjoy the new Andrew Lane series about the adolescence of the great detective, Death Cloud and Rebel Fire. Both series lend themselves to summer reading—an interesting premise, great action, great escape, and the perfect way to while away unstructured time.

Happy summer reading—to everyone in the family.

Here’s a section from The Case of the Missing Marquess:

I would very much like to know why my mother named me “Enola,” which, backwards spells alone. Mum was, or perhaps still is, fond of ciphers, and she must have had something in mind, whether foreboding or a sort of left-handed blessing or, already, plans, even though my father had not yet passed away.

Originally posted June 9, 2012. Updated for .

Tags: Adventure, London
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for The Case of the Missing Marquess


  1. I was so happy to see this series arrive. Nancy Springer is a great tale spinner. I hope more teachers and librarians introduce it to their students. Andrew Lane’s Death Cloud was a winner also. Rebel Fire is on my summer reading pile as is Anthony Horowitz’s The House of Silk. I can’t get enough of Sherlock Holmes. And I just might pick up a Donald Duck comic today when visiting my favorite local bookstore. I read those non-stop when I was younger. Thanks, Anita. Have a wonderful Saturday.

  2. Barb says:

    My daughter and I loved this series (although we are both at least a bit over the recommended age). Springer makes it so clear how much better people in general, and women in particular, have it now. The idea of corsets sometimes killing their wearers has really stayed with me.
    I guess it is realistic historical fiction as its basis, beyond anything I’ve read of this time period before.
    And a great read!

  3. Anita says:

    Barb and Margie: Thanks for your enthusiasm for these books. They are not as well known as they should be!

  4. Beverly says:

    I loved this series as well. Springer stayed true to the Victorian setting. Also, I appreciated that she didn’t “write down” to her readers.

  5. Eliza says:

    Anita – Just wanted to thank you for bringing the Enola Holmes books to my attention. I started with the first one shortly after reading this entry last year and then quickly had to read the next one and then the next . . . sort of like trying to stop eating chips after just one! Now, I’m a big advocate for this series.

    Enola is smart and compassionate and these qualities shine through and help her to solve her cases and make her way. One of thing that I love about these books is that Enola’s progressive beliefs are realistic based on both her upbringing and for her era. At no time does Nancy Springer overlay 21st century sensibilities onto Enola.

  6. Tish Dersnah says:

    This is one of my favorite series (and I’m a grandmother). I keep waiting for the next one. Enola is so smart and resourceful and human. A wonderful role model. Thanks for bringing it to the fore.

  7. Barbara says:

    I love this series! I started reading them a year ago, when I read this entry. I devoured them all last summer and recommend them to anyone who enjoys a good mystery. Enola’s spunk and grit makes her a lovable character and I enjoyed her wit and problem solving from beginning to end. Definitely a series that should receive more attention.

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