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The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline by Nancy Springer

One of my pet peeves is authors borrowing other authors characters for their own stories, and so I have never read any of the many other books spawned by Pride and Prejudice, nor classics such as the Wide Sargasso Sea.

The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline should have fallen within that category, as the protagonist is Enola Holmes, the 14 year old sister of Sherlock Holmes.  In spite of myself, I was intrigued – I liked the idea of a female version of Sherlock Holmes, and so I decided to give it a go.

Enola Holmes has run away from home and she is living under an assumed identity in a boarding house in London.  Her elderly landlady receives a cryptic message which Enola has to solve to rescue her landlady, who is violently kidnapped by persons who want her to reveal a message with which she was entrusted during the Crimean war, some 30 years before.

Crinoline fashion 1860

This is definitely a book that is aimed at older children and young teenagers, so it is quite simple and a lot of the twists and turns were quite easy to predict as an adult.  However, this didn’t bother me, as I was not so far ahead of Enola that I became frustrated with her for not solving the various clues, and so I think the pacing of the story is very good.

The plot was a little thin.  The journey to solving the mystery was entertaining and exciting, but I think that more could have been done to make clear the motivations of the characters and the reason behind them wanting this cryptic message to be destroyed after it had lain dormant for so many years.  It did also rely on coincidence for more than one of Enola’s breakthroughs, and I’m not really keen on that as a plot device as it seems to be a bit of an easy option.

I did really enjoy this book, and if I knew any young teenagers I would definitely recommend it to them.  I listened to this as an audio book and I think a large part of my personal enjoyment of the book was down to the fact that the audio narration was really, really good.  I liked the tone of voice that the narrator used for Enola and I liked the fact that she adapted for the other characters so she sounded completely different – it was really entertaining.  I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it so much if I had read it in print form.  I have since looked it up on the internet and there are quite a few Enola Holmes mysteries, so I am currently looking out for a paper version of a different story in the library so I can compare.

And I am pleased to report that although Sherlock Holmes did make a brief appearance in the book, he did not feature too heavily; Enola was allowed by the author to step outside of her brother’s shadow, and solve the mystery using her own mental agility and prowess.  Her resourcefulness, self-confidence and values make Enola Holmes a very good role model for younger teenage girls.


30 day book challenge day 2 – Favourite side character.

I struggled a little with this one at first.

I toyed with  Dr. Watson, from the Sherlock Holmes stories but I didn’t think I could truly call him a side character given that he is the narrates all of the stories.

I nearly went for the wonderful creation that is Mrs Danvers from Rebecca.  She is not an obvious choice as there is nothing likeable about her at all.  She is unfriendly, creepy, manipulative, dangerous and unhealthily obsessed with Rebecca, but I love her because she walks right off the page and seems so real.  There is one particular moment in the book when she is trying to plant the idea into the second Mrs De Winter’s head that she should commit suicide.  For me, that is one of the most atmospheric and memorable scenes I have ever read.

In the end, there was only one that could take the mantle of favourite side character…

Neville Longbottom

I have always had such a soft spot for Neville.  He starts off as a bit of a hopeless case – socially awkward and little magical talent (his family thought he was a squib for a long time).  But Neville has the heart of a lion.  In order to be truly brave, you have to be scared.  Neville could easily have been forgiven for wanting to hide in the background and not take a stand against Voldemort given what happened to his parents and his less than impressive magic skills.  But he doesn’t do this.  He has the courage to take a stand, to be loyal to his friends, to put himself in danger to fight for a cause he believes in, and in the end, J K Rowling rightly rewards him with his own moment of glory.  If I had the power to make J K Rowling go back to Harry Potter, it is not what happened to Harry next that I would ask her to write.  I would ask her to tell me the story of that last year in Hogwarts from Neville’s perspective, where he found the courage not only to take a stand himself, but to lead others as well.  Neville Longbottom – I salute you!