The fourth Enola Holmes novel, The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan, may be my favorite so far. Enola sees Lady Cecily, the titular character of The Case of the Left-Handed Lady. She’s in the “care” of two very controlling women, but she manages to send Enola a clue by leaving her pink fan behind.
Spring has arrived in London, so the plight of the poor is a little less dire. The upper classes play a larger role in this case, particularly their attempts to move up in society and the role of daughters as pawns.
During this case, Enola ends up working alongside Sherlock—the two have reached an uneasy truce since they both have clues to find Cecily so they each need the other to solve the case. This is a moment I’ve been hoping for since the start of the series!
I do think this series works best in order, but you absolutely want to read The Case of the Left-Handed Lady before reading The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan. The series starts with The Case of the Missing Marquess.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
Sherlock thinks that Mycroft is worrying needlessly about Enola—but his reasoning is sexist. He feels certain that as a woman and a child, she can’t possibly have grand plans she’s working toward. She will grow up and leave this behind to “nest and procreate.” By the end of the novel, he’s relied on Enola several times. He respects her and thinks she’s smart (although he probably still thinks she’ll give this all up someday to nest and procreate). He also doesn’t think Cecily could be anything more than a passive girl who will do as she’s told or maybe cower in fear.
Cecily’s father is forcing her to marry her first cousin—this wasn’t so uncommon among the upper classes, in order to keep bloodlines pure. In this case, Cecily’s father is just trying to get rid of his daughter who is damaged goods. Cecily’s mother is totally opposed to the marriage, but she can’t stop it. She does, however, move out and take the rest of her children with her. And she’s the one who hires Sherlock to find Cecily and hopefully stop the wedding.
Cecily’s mother is a good parent, while her father is just as awful as we suspected in The Case of the Left-Handed Lady. Mycroft continues to be the Holmes brother that Enola most fears, although in many ways he understands her more than Sherlock does. Enola admires Sherlock, which plays a large role in this novel as she works with him. Mycroft and Sherlock quarrel at the end because Sherlock let Enola go as he promised, rather than taking her into custody. Enola still worries about her mother, wanting to contact her but fearing that she’ll learn her mother doesn’t really love her.
The secret language of fans is introduced in this novel. There’s also a new code introduced, which shows that Cecily is a resourceful young woman.
Enola notes that “it is futile to attempt to hurry an Irishman in the telling of a tale.”
There’s a lot less violence in this book, although there are plenty of scary people around. Sherlock is injured, but it’s because he falls in a pit trap.
Enola dresses as a midden-picker—someone who pulls things out of garbage heaps to sell. This disguise allows her access to places because few people will chase away a midden-picker.
The peculiar pink fan is identified as a favor from one of the very trendy pink tea parties that all the upper class ladies are having. Posing as a fashion journalist, Enola gains access to the home where Cecily attended one of these parties. The hostess, very much wanting to gain prestige from her party, welcomes the “journalist” in and answers her questions.
There’s a scary guard dog in one scene, but Enola isn’t really in danger from it. When she returns to the same house later, Sherlock has already given the dog a drug to make it sleep.
I’ve enjoyed the whole series, and this one was delightful. Certainly if your reader could handle the other books, there’s nothing in this one that will be more difficult. I loved seeing the return of Lady Cecily and finding out her fate, which is much happier in this book than was implied in The Case of the Left-Handed Lady.
The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan by Nancy Springer
Published in 2008 by Philomel Books
Fourth in a series, after The Case of the Missing Marquess, The Case of the Left-Handed Lady, and The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets
Borrowed from my daughter’s middle school library thanks to their wonderful summer borrowing program