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Literature / Enola Holmes

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A series of children's detective novels by Nancy Springer. They focus on Enola Holmes, the younger sister of Sherlock Holmes and Mycroft Holmes.

Enola has been raised by her mother in seclusion in the countryside, taught to be independent and a feminist Suffragist. However, after her mother vanishes into thin air on Enola's 14th birthday, the girl's much older brothers come to collect her. Neither has much interest in raising a girl, so they agree the best route is to send her to a boarding school where she can learn to be a "proper young lady."

But Enola has other ideas. Drawing off of her mother's constant reassurance, "Enola, you will do very well on your own" and a healthy sum of money that her mother had squirreled away in the house, Enola gives her brothers the slip and sets out to seek her fortune in London, and on the way, she discovers her vocation as a "Scientific Perditorian", in other words, a solver of crimes through analysis, disguise, sheer grit, and the occasional well-placed dagger.

Nine books have been written in the series so far:

  1. The Case of the Missing Marquess (2006)
  2. The Case of the Left-Handed Lady (2007)
  3. The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (2008)
  4. The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan (2008)
  5. The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline (2009)
  6. The Case of the Gypsy Goodbye (2010)note 
  7. Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche (2021)
  8. Enola Holmes and the Elegant Escapade (2022)
  9. Enola Holmes and the Mark of the Mongoose (2023)

The series had a Comic-Book Adaptation by writer/artist Séréna Blasco that was produced by the French publisher, Jungle! and republished in English by IDW.

The 2020 film adaptation stars Millie Bobby Brown as the title character, Henry Cavill as Sherlock, Sam Claflin as Mycroft and Helena Bonham Carter as their mother Eudoria. A sequel released in November 2022. A tie-in graphic novel, Enola Holmes: Mycroft's Dangerous Game was published by Legendary Comics in August 2022.

Not related to the 90s series The Adventures of Shirley Holmes about a young female descendant of the original Sherlock in modern times.

This series provides examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: After Enola is let down by her first meeting with her brothers in the first book, she draws caricatures of them both. Sherlock laughs out loud when he sees the picture, though he advisers Enola not to show it to Mycroft.
  • A Sinister Clue: The fact that Lady Cecily is left-handed is very important to figuring out her kidnapping.
  • Alliterative Title: Part of the Idiosyncratic Episode Naming of "The Case of... the [Alliterative Thing]":
    • The Case of the Missing Marquess
    • The Case of the Left-Handed Lady
    • The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets
    • The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan
    • The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline
    • The Case of the Gypsy Goodbye
    • Also the alternate title to book six The Case of the Disappearing Duchess
  • Aloof Big Brother: Two, actually; before they reunite to discuss their mother's disappearance, Enola only met Sherlock and Mycroft once at their father's funeral.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Enola remarks several times that her brothers are confirmed bachelors and not one bit interested in women.
  • Arranged Marriage: In The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan, a friend of Enola is being forced to be married and Enola and Sherlock find themselves joining forces to prevent it.
  • Bad Habits: One of Enola's favourite early disguises is as a mute nun which allows her to do some good deeds and was even good enough to fool Sherlock until he found out about it.
  • Beneath Notice: Several times Enola disguises herself as someone that Sherlock and Mycroft will not look twice at, a beautiful woman.
    • First instance is when John Watson goes missing and Enola needs to talk to Mrs. Mary Watson without rousing suspicions. Sherlock comes during the interview and barely even looks at her.
    • Second instance is when Enola needs to loiter in front of the British Museum, in full view of her brothers. Other than tipping their hats when she goes past them they don't even look at her.
    • In the last book, Sherlock has been convinced that Enola deserves her freedom but Mycroft disagrees. To convince Mycroft that Enola is feminine and ladylike Sherlock brings her along while she is dolled up. It takes a short while before Mycroft recognizes her after Enola speaks to him.
  • Big Brother Worship: In spite of the threat he poses to her freedom, Enola thinks the world of Sherlock and dearly wants his love and respect. Mycroft, not so much.
  • Born Detective: Enola is a Holmes and sibling to Mycroft and Sherlock, enough said.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Lady Cecily and the rest of Alexander Finch's victims.
  • Brainy Brunette: Enola frequently compares her hair's color to mud. She is also smart as a whip.
  • Canon Foreigner: The premise.
  • Conveniently Placed Sharp Thing: In Missing Marquess before she'd implented the dagger broach, Enola used the steel ribs of her corset to cut her bonds.
  • Embarrassing Rescue: Enola rescuing Sherlock after he falls into a ha ha in The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan. He isn't completely ungrateful, but he's definitely embarrassed and annoyed to be rescued by the younger sister who's been evading him for so long.
  • Flower Motifs: Enola and her mother communicate through the papers using floriography, and it's obviously a big theme in "The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets." Enola's favorite flower to signify herself is the Ivy, as it symbolizes fidelity.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Enola, raised in the Victorian Era's social assumptions, initially keeps beating herself up as ugly and stupid because of that kind of social poison. However, she realizes eventually that she is most definitely the opposite of both.
  • Historical Domain Character: In The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline, the great nurse Florence Nightingale figures prominently in Enola's case and she also sets Sherlock straight of why Enola is being so stubborn about refusing to go to boarding school.
  • Huge Schoolgirl: Enola is very tall for her age, and has no trouble passing for an adult woman.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Pattern-type: "The Case of... the [Alliterative Title Thing]": The Case of the Missing Marquess, The Case of the Left-Handed Lady, The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets, The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan, The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline, and The Case of the Gypsy Goodbye.
  • Inspector Javert: Her brothers, but Sherlock slowly grows so impressed at Enola's talents at being a detective that he eventually helps Enola prove herself to Mycroft that she's just fine being herself.
  • Kid Detective/Teen Genius: Enola is only 14 and has proven a superb private detective.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sherlock and Mycroft both. They both seem like arrogant prigs who refuse to understand Enola and wish to shut her up in a boarding school. But it's clear that the two of them have no idea whatsoever of how to relate to a fourteen-year-old girl, let alone one as unconventional as Enola. Sherlock learns to respect and trust her much more quickly than Mycroft does; but even Enola in Gypsy Goodbye notices how gentle Mycroft is with the kidnapping victim.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Both Enola (see Meaningful Name) and Lady Cecilia. Also Viscout Tweakbury, the missing marquess.
  • Master of Disguise: Anyone who can fool Sherlock and Mycroft like she can when she is practically in front of them is definitely this.
  • Maternally Challenged: The Holmes Matriarch, Lady Eudoria Vernet Holmes. Her sons are two rather cold fishes and her daughter has serious self-esteem issues.
  • Meaningful Name: Enola's (think backwards).
  • Missing Mom: The Holmes mother's disappearance starts the series and her departure breaks Enola's heart. That changes when Enola realizes that her mother has left numerous coded messages and resources that would allow her to escape herself. Afterward, they keep in contact through coded personals ads, although that's dangerous with her brothers learning her code and trying to trap her.
  • Myth Arc: The Stern Chase of Enola eluding her brothers until they grow to realize that she is their equal who deserves their respect and her freedom.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter
  • Of Corset Hurts: Enola's abhorrence of the corset (inherited from her mother) is one factor that caused her to run. On the plus side, she finds a much less restricting corset design that helps as a disguise and a form of armor.
    • This theme is developed as each book goes by. In The Cryptic Crinoline, Sherlock receives a lecture on the dangers and pain of the corset from no less an authority than Florence Nightingale, who manages to astound even the world-renowned detective. In The Gypsy Good-bye this forms a tragic crux to the mystery: the young noblewoman suffered no worse fate, initially, than being kidnapped, robbed blind, and abandoned. However, her lifetime spent in a corset has left her crippled and all-but paralyzed without the steel supports, and she nearly starves to death in an alley before Enola, Sherlock, and Mycroft find her.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Mycroft is thunderstruck when Sherlock claims that he will not let logic get in the way of him finding their sister.
  • Plucky Girl: Running away from home with a definite plan, set yourself up for business as a detective through a proxy identity no one needs to see to believe in and all the while, elude Sherlock Holmes continually? Enola darn well has to be one.
  • Practically Different Generations: Sherlock and Mycroft are both about two decades older than their younger sister Enola, which makes it hard for them to relate to her.
  • Private Detective: Enola prides herself at being "The world's first Scientific Perditorian", albeit through proxy, and hopes to drop the façade and operate openly as one in her adulthood.
  • Promotion to Parent: Both Mycroft and Sherlock take matters into their own hands when their mother disappears, though in rather different ways - Mycroft just wants to dump Enola in a boarding school and doesn't care all that much about her after she disappears while Sherlock drives himself sick trying to find Enola in London and bring her to safety. It helps that the two of them actually are old enough to be Enola's parents (both of them being at least 20 years older than her).
  • Refuge in Audacity: Enola in one book hides temporarily in the one place Sherlock would never expect her to be: 221b Baker Street!
  • Secretly Dying: Eventually revealed to be why Eudoria disappeared.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: In the final book, Sherlock finds Enola in her best dressed persona and notes that considering how well she looks, it's obvious the finishing school they wanted to pack her off to is unnecessary.
  • She Is All Grown Up: At the end of the series, Sherlock notes that in the year Enola has been on her own and dodging him, she's has grown from a seemingly naive 14 year old girl into an extraordinarily capable 15 year old young woman and professional detective who is a match for himself.
  • Sheltered Aristocrat: Tewkesbury had a very glamorised ideal of running away to sea and was hit pretty hard by the reality. Enola meanwhile is aware that London is a dangerous place but isn't prepared for its true squalor and poverty the first time she travels there. She is shocked when Tewkesbury describes the cruel treatment of the workhouse, which she had previously believed was meant to help the poor.
  • Snooping Little Kid: Sometimes Enola has had to rely on a lot of dangerous legwork in her cases.
  • So Proud of You: When a man so arrogantly self-assured in his profession like Sherlock calls his sister his "competition," then you'll know that is the supreme shop compliment from him.
  • Stern Chase: Enola is continually on the run from her brothers who cannot understand why she is avoiding them.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Defied. Enola decides in book one that she is never going to use that penny dreadful trick.
  • Values Dissonance: In-universe; Enola, having been raised by a suffragist mother and all too aware of what being a "lady" was like during her time, wants to live her own way. Her brothers think this as nothing short of outrageous and believe that Enola must conform.
  • Victorian London: Enola's new home, despite her brothers' best efforts to capture her.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Enola learns that she can hold a lot of things in her shirt, which also fills out her chest for disguise purposes. A major thing in there is a dagger, with its pommel being disguised as a brooch.
  • Working the Same Case: The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan, where it turns out that Enola and Sherlock are both investigating the same thing, and share information that helps her figure out where Lady Cecily is being held.
  • Wrongfully Committed: In the third book, Dr. Watson has somehow ended up in a mental asylum, with the staff believing he's deluded himself into thinking he's Dr. Watson. The person who landed him there turns out to be a mad and disfigured woman named Flora whom Watson sent to an asylum on the behalf of her brother-in-law. After being freed by her sister, she murdered her brother-in-law without anyone finding out and gave his identity to Watson in order to sent him to the asylum as revenge.
  • You Go, Girl!: Despite her brothers' best efforts to recapture her, Enola is able to stay a step ahead of her super smart brothers, solve numerous missing persons cases as a professional detective and develop a decent income from her income property at the same time. Heck, she's even been able to impress Sherlock at how good she is at his profession.