Last week, the trailer for Netflix’s new Enola Holmes feature came out, and a lot of people online expressed excitement over how much fun it looked (or how pretty Henry Cavill looked? I saw about half and half. Or both at once). I agree that it looks fun, which is great because I adore the source material. But the children’s librarian part of me can’t stop there. Any time someone posted about the trailer, seemingly unaware of the source material, I wanted to shout, “SO HEY, DID YOU KNOW THE BOOKS ARE EXCELLENT AND YOU CAN READ THEM NOW?”
The Enola Holmes Mysteries, by Nancy Springer, are a six-book middle grade series—a fairly easy middle grade, at that: an adult can finish each book in a couple of hours, max. Which is an important point, because if said adult checks only one book out of the library at a time, they will swallow it in a gulp and be left immediately hungering for the next installment.
Look, mysteries were my first genre love, growing up, from the first Nancy Drew my mother handed me at age seven. I’ve read a lot of middle grade mysteries over the course of my life, and while many formulaic potboilers are a lot of fun, they’re ultimately forgettable. I’d never discourage anyone from reading them, and I probably would hand them to a kid looking for more mysteries, but would I tell a well-read adult, “You’ve got to read these Generic Kids Solve Mysteries books!”? Not so much.
The Enola Holmes Mysteries, about the adventures of Sherlock’s kid sister trying to track down missing people while not getting sent to finishing school, look like they should be simple middle grade potboilers, but that’s far from the truth. This series has no right to be as good as it is. But it is, unironically, my all-time favorite Sherlock Holmes adaptation/interpretation. And this is coming from someone whose Imaginary Husband played one of the most well-known Watsons.
It has all the puzzles and deductions you’d expect from a Holmes-centered story, with a bit more heart, and certainly more female representation. It has a richly described setting that will suck readers regardless of background knowledge right into Victorian London. And adventure! Don’t expect the watered-down stakes of beginning-reader mysteries here—no lost puppies or stolen lunch money. There’s real danger and suspense, and at least one instance per book of this adult going, “I can’t believe it went there!” Not that they aren’t perfectly appropriate for ten-year-olds, I must add. In my experience, most ten-year-olds are looking for more danger than many adults suspect.
My point is, that while the Enola Holmes books may be aimed at ten-year-olds, this is one series that is genuinely fun for all ages. I hope the Netflix film will be equally so, but in the meantime, give the books a read! It will take far less of your time than you’ll ultimately want it to. You’ll be left waiting hungrily for the show on September 23 to relive your joy!
That or you’ll just keep rereading them. You can do that. They’re short.