When the Enola Holmes movie was recently released on Netflix, I decided to read the book that it was based on (The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer) before watching the movie. As I read the book, I was struck by two things. #1, though this book series is found in the Children’s Room, it has surprisingly sophisticated themes and I found it very appealing as an adult reader. #2, the protagonist, Enola Holmes, precociously adept at solving mysteries, reminded me of another young sleuth I loved, the delightfully quirky Flavia de Luce from Alan Bradley’s series.
I quickly devoured The Case of the Missing Marquess, and immediately checked out the rest of the series. I’m happy to report that all six books are wonderful, quick reads that will appeal the fans of dear Flavia, or cozy mysteries in general. Let’s take a look at the young protagonists from each series.
Enola Holmes is the much younger sister of Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes, whom she admires but rarely sees. Raised by her mother in a very unconventional way, and often left to her own devices for extended periods of time, Enola has a skill set not normally found in young ladies of her era, with a particular talent for cryptology. In 1900, on her 14th birthday, her mother mysteriously disappears, leaving coded clues behind. Enola sets out to solve the mystery of her disappearance, much to the consternation of her brothers, who want to put her into boarding school and make a proper lady out of her. She is in hiding from them for most of the series, and it’s fun to watch Enola outsmart the brothers who think themselves so much smarter than her.
Flavia de Luce is an 11-year-old girl in 1950 who lost her mother when she was a baby. She lives with her largely-absent father and two annoying older sisters on an English country estate that’s seen better days. Flavia’s upbringing is also quite unconventional, and she spends much of her time indulging her passion for chemistry, becoming quite an expert in poisons through the many experiments she conducts in her laboratory. Flavia’s obsession with the gruesome and deadly along with her need to get to figure out why things happen is a by-product of losing her mother at such an early age; indeed Harriet de Luce remains a presence in the sad little family throughout the series. While this could be maudlin, it is never overdone, and Flavia’s determination to make sense of events in the world around her drives everything she does. She is the definition of “pluck”.
Both girls are motherless and do not follow the social norms of their times. Both have older siblings who are the banes of their existence. Both are whip-smart and often underestimated by the adults around them. And both have the uncanny knack for landing in the middle of trouble, over and over again, and are able to survive largely by their wits.
The Flavia de Luce stories are longer and a bit more complex than the Enola Holmes stories, but watching both of these unconventional sleuths get to the bottom of each mystery they land into is pure delight. I’ll add an additional plug for the audiobooks, the narrators of each series are pitch-perfect in their portrayals, and really bring the characters to life.
It’s recommended to read the books in both series in order, as each book builds off the previous one. Get a double dose of girl power with these terrific mysteries!
Flavia de Luce Mysteries:
- The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
- The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag
- A Red Herring Without Mustard
- I Am Half-Sick of Shadows
- Speaking from Among the Bones
- The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches
- As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust
- Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d
- The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place
- The Golden Tresses of the Dead
4 thoughts on “A Double Dose of Girl Power: Enola Holmes and Flavia de Luce”
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I have both series on audiobook. They are appealing to adults-I’m 45, and find that with both-especially Flavia, if you forget that the protagonist is so young, they really are more adult novels than young adult! I like that the books do not have gory violence (there are murders, but the flavour is more like Agatha Christie than modern books), sex, or cursing (there might be a few curses of what is considered “mild”, but even those are few)
Another murder mystery series with tween or teen detectives that I enjoy are the PC Hawke mysteries by Paul Zindel. Written around the turn of the century, they are more contemporary, but ironically still feel throwback in that unlike the period pieces of Flavia and Enola, they take place at the time they are written, and with technology improving even over 20 years, such things as cell phones with poor reception, having to call someone else to do computer work from their home, and other little touches age the books wonderfully.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the two series! I really like the audiobook readers of them!
One thing about Flavia that I will say is that it annoys me to no end how much she is bullied by her siblings! I don’t understand why she didn’t tell her father-who seems totally out of touch. And then his death was shocking and unexpected.
At least with Enola, her brothers mean her well, although as she says if caught she would be sent to boarding school with a spanking
I saw the preview for the Enola movie and did not like it, so I passed on viewing the film. (She NEVER actually went to boarding school-unlike the film) The Duke seems too old, and was never a love interest. Mycroft seems too thin, and Sherlock seems too…emotional
I’m also in my 40’s and love, love the Flavia books so far. I definitely think it is a series for all ages. I will be looking into the Paul Zindel mysteries – you’ve peaked my interest! I do wish your comment had a spoiler alert, though… I didn’t know yet about Flavia’s father! 🙁
Oops! Jessica, I apologise-you are absolutely correct-that was a spoiler that I shouldn’t have revealed.