The Case of the Missing Marquess (Enola Holmes, #1), by Nancy Springer

The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thankfully, this was almost as short as it was disappointing: In “The Case of the Missing Marquess” by Nancy Springer we first witness Enola Holmes’ flight from her older brothers, Sherlock and Mycroft. Yes, it’s another case of a contemporary author trying to make a few bucks from the legacy of another…

This uneventful flight takes up an entire half of the novel and it’s just plain boring. The writing is simplistic, the language is old-fashioned but not in the way of Arthur Conan Doyle’s historic works but reimagined by Springer, whose primary research material was colouring books…

For example, Doyle would never (and indeed never did, I checked!) write about a lady’s “unmentionables” (as in undergarments) like Springer does several times. As a matter of fact, authors of the Victorian era, including Conan Doyle, would often employ various techniques to allude to and mask such sensitive subjects rather than explicitly mentioning them. They would use euphemisms, subtext, or veiled references to address these topics indirectly.

They generally relied on subtlety and insinuation rather than direct discussion. Not so Springer: She naïvely discusses all these subjects very directly which would have scandalised the society she tries to emulate.

»Before he could do so, I hoisted my primitive weapon and brought it down with great decision upon his head.«

Even the structure of the novel is disgraced by a miserable attempt at emulating older style: The chapters aren’t simply numbered or called, let’s say, “Chapter Two” as historical precedent would have it. No, it has to be “Chapter the Second” and so on… At “Chapter the Fifteenth” my patience had run thin.

All this feels forced and just plain wrong.

Especially in the beginning, Springer also doesn’t build naturally upon Doyle’s literary legacy but simply info-dumps a lot of well-established facts onto us, e. g. “[Sherlock] suffered from melancholia” – show us, don’t just tell us! – in order to make this feel less like the tired knock-off it actually is.

»Let my brother Sherlock be The World’s Only Private Consulting Detective all he liked; I would be The World’s Only Private Consulting Perditorian.«

The story about the eponymous marquess itself was so simple, I felt like I was reading a children’s book. The entire travesty around Cutter gave me a strong feeling of second-hand embarrassment…

Last and least, I’m having a hard time when people infringe upon the legacy of the great detective:

»I knew things Sherlock Holmes failed even to imagine.«

No, dear Enola, you simply suffer from the same delusion as your creator: That you manage to know enough to create something that doesn’t pale in comparison to the original.

I cannot believe these novels remain as bland as the first one so I’m going to give the second one a try…

A very generous three stars out of five.

Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam

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