Philomel Books (Penguin Young Readers Group), 2009.
If you have not yet read any of Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes mysteries, that is a correction that should soon be made. The Cryptic Crinoline is the fifth in the series and Springer and Enola have undoubtedly hit their stride. Our protagonist is still on the run from her brothers Mycroft and (the famous) Sherlock Holmes. She is also still missing her mother. It is to our storyteller’s credit the way she develops Enola’s wit and cleverness, as well as the angst and insecurities of being a 14 year-old-girl, abandoned by her mother, and alone in the excessively male-dominated London with brothers who would send her off to boarding school (and a life of corsets). Alongside, we get glimpses of Sherlock’s progression as well. The relationship between the siblings is one of the most charming aspects of the series. This installment does not disappoint.
The mysteries are wonderfully suited for our heroine, as is becoming usual: it is her female perspective and knowledge that help solve the mysteries and lend a compassionate voice to plight of many of the characters in the stories (the ones who are likewise oppressed in some way). As a heroine, she does not come across as invulnerable as Nancy Drew, or as mystical as say, Theodosia. She is a strong central character, worth everyone’s while to read—of great interest to female readers to be sure, but for males?—I need a few test subjects, but I would recommend the read.
I am biased toward the timeframe. Late 1800s, early 1900s London is a great setting for a story. Springer does not ignore issues that could find certain parallel to now; history is beneficial that way. Primarily, of course, it is book with a mystery to solve, and a heroine with which to become better acquainted.
(written June 2009)