Move over, Nancy Drew!
by Anastasia Tuckness
One day last fall, I came to work and noticed a stack of books on my desk. Hmm, I thought, those are those dusty teen detective novels I never got around to reading. Why the sudden interest? Turns out a new show on Netflix featuring Enola Holmes was prompting lots of holds. One of my coworkers surveyed the books and determined—they need to be moved from teen to juvenile! And they need to be catalogued as a series! And we need a whole bunch of new copies! And thus began a flurry of activity to meet the demand.
Enola Holmes herself was an original creation of author Nancy Springer for her 2006 novel, The Case of the Missing Marquess. Enola is the younger teenaged sister of Sherlock Holmes, and she shares her brother’s penchant for solving mysteries. Her story begins on her fourteenth birthday—what should have been a happy day instead turns tragic when Enola discovers her mother is missing. After vehemently rejecting her brothers’ suggestion of boarding school, and very sure that she can find her mother based on some clues left around the house (who knew the wilted flowers in Mom’s room were significant?), she disguises herself and runs away to London, where she stumbles into the title mystery. Her adventure continues in five more volumes, although as yet Netflix has only made the one show based on the first book. (Pro tip: Read the excellent graphic novel adaptation for a quick introduction to Enola’s world.)
Nancy Drew is, of course, the even more famous girl detective, and you can still check out any of the original 56 titles in her original series. (Which—did you know?—was written by an Iowa woman named Mildred Wirt Benson under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene!!) Spinoff series and modernizations to try include Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew, Nancy Drew Diaries, and Nancy Drew Girl Detective.
Personally, however, I’m partial to the many other young girl detectives in fiction. These are the heroines whose spunk, intelligence, and determination lead them to thwart crime and restore order wherever they find themselves. They notice everything and follow through on clues, patiently solving the mysteries that cross their paths. If you or a young reader you know is looking for such an adventure, look no further than these excellent mystery series.
Friday Barnes (by R.A. Spratt)—whose disguises include a brown cardigan since it can serve as camouflage whether inside a bush or inside a library—solves mysteries about missing pastries, swamp Yetis, and handsome boys at her boarding school. There’s a lot of dry humor along the way. Precious Ramotswe (by Alexander McCall Smith), who grows up to found The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, does not waste her childhood, instead using her considerable talents of observation and deduction in these beginning chapter books to solve mysteries of missing cows, lions, and cakes. Vivid descriptions of the Botswanan landscape add depth to these perfect family read-alouds. Mo LoBeau of Three Times Lucky (by Sheila Turnage) is my personal favorite; her pluck and humor drive this action-packed mystery full of crazy characters and surprising plot twists.
If you’re looking for something more classic, try the new Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen series. Author Marthe Jocelyn carefully researched life in the English town of Torquay in 1902, the year Agatha Christie was 12, and used these details as background for her story. Petticoats, bicycles, afternoon tea … and, a dead body. Upon entering her dance class one day, Aggie sees, as the title of the first book states, The Body Under the Piano. She is determined to sleuth out the killer, taking notes along the way (often imagining gruesome scenes and how one might describe them in a novel).
Whether classic or modern, funny or serious, there’s a great series out there for all mystery lovers. Check one out today!