The Enola Holmes series reaches its conclusion in the sixth novel, The Case of the Gypsy Good-bye. While I’m kind of sad to see the series come to a close (I read the last five novels in a summer binge), I have amazing respect for an author who knows when and how to end a series. You might be fine reading them out of order, but I’m really glad I read them chronologically and close together because I could see Enola’s growth through this year on her own, as well as the growth of her brothers—particularly Sherlock.
In this final novel, the wife of a foreign noble has disappeared right from under the noses of her ladies-in-waiting. The mystery itself is a bit thin, because it’s mostly a backdrop for bringing Enola’s story to a satisfactory conclusion. All the threads—her distrust of brothers who don’t understand her or women in general, her absent mother, her conflicting needs for independence and family—are dealt with.
I really enjoyed the series as a whole, and the final novel didn’t disappoint. Although these were borrowed from the library, I’m very tempted to buy the whole series so I’ll have them on-hand to read again or to loan. I would recommend looking at the six novels as chapters in a longer book, reading them back to back in fairly short order.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
First, in order to not spoil the whole series, there’s nothing in this book that’s more traumatic or problematic than any of the previous books. If the use of “gypsy” hasn’t bothered you so far, there’s probably no reason to read most of these spoilers—maybe “Deadly Fashion” which is a little alarming. Just go read the books!
The duquessa who has gone missing is considered quite the beauty. Her ladies-in-waiting are proud of the fact that she has worn a spoon corset daily since she was a child, even to sleep. The only time she took it off was during her “confinements”, i.e., pregnancies, which have all ended in miscarriage. When Enola finally finds the duquessa, she has been kidnapped for her fine clothes and hair—stripped to her shift, and her head shorn. However, she’s unable to return home because without her corset she doesn’t have the strength to even stand upright. She’s essentially completely crippled.
The duquessa married well, to a foreign nobleman. It has all the signs of a political marriage. However, he loves her very much, and she loves him as well. Her ladies-in-waiting are very fond of her too. There is no sign that she would have run away, because she was quite happy in her situation. When she returns home—muddy, unable to stand, her beautiful hair shorn off—her husband welcomes her and carries her into the house himself. She’s a renowned beauty, but he obviously sees a lot more in her than that.
The duquessa, like Enola and Cecily before her, is horrified by the plight of the poor, but she’s unsure what to do about it, especially as the adults (particularly the men) in her life are unconcerned about it. When she is stranded in a mud puddle, unable to even stand to rescue herself, the poorest of the poor care for her, bringing her food. She is grateful to them.
Sherlock explicitly asks Enola if she is still “virginal” after her time on her own. Enola is properly shocked by this question. There is some fear that the duquessa has been taken by “procurers” which means human traffickers, although that’s not explicitly stated.
“Gypsy” is now frequently considered to be a slur, but it’s the term that has been used throughout the series. We’ve known that Enola’s mother ran off to join the gypsies, and we finally encounter one in this story. It’s a bit stereotypical, with palm reading, superstitious signs, etc., and there are some derogatory statements made about them, although Enola’s mother defends them as fellow free spirits and obviously joined them by her own choice.
Enola receives a message from her mother at last. It’s a final message, and her receiving it means that her mother is dead. It answers many questions, though. Her mother left when she did because she realized she had cancer and not much longer to live. She wanted to die on her own terms, and she felt that the greatest gift she could give Enola was the example of making her own decisions for herself and no one else. She was true to herself, even if that proved that she was kind of an awful mother. It’s a mixed message, to be sure.
Sherlock is on Enola’s side throughout this book. He invites Mycroft along, which horrifies Enola until she realizes it’s to pull one over on Mycroft rather than her. With Sherlock there to make sure Mycroft doesn’t exercise his legal rights as Enola’s guardian, Mycroft finally gets to really see Enola in action. He’s impressed and admits he underestimated her. In the end, there is no threat of finishing school or attempting to marry her off so she’s someone else’s problem. Higher education is an option for her future. She may get the chance to truly befriend Lady Cecily. Things have worked out really well for her.
It’s lovely to come to the final book of a series and feel perfectly satisfied with the ending. I strongly recommend the series to readers ages 10 and up who find the premise intriguing.
The Case of the Gypsy Good-bye by Nancy Springer
Published in 2010 by Philomel Books
Sixth and last in a series
Borrowed from my daughter’s middle school library thanks to their wonderful summer borrowing program
The Enola Holmes series in order: