Mystery Minus Murder with Nancy Springer

Nancy Springer, the author of Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche, did not see herself writing mysteries...until she unexpectedly won an Edgar Award. Read on to see how Nancy eventually created the Enola Holmes character.

Plus: Leave a comment on this post to enter for your chance to win a hardcover copy of Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche!

Scribbling my first novels back in the 1970s, already I knew, just knew, that I would never write mystery. Not. Ever. I loved reading classical mystery novels, but the plotty plots didn’t feel right for me as a writer, or the red herrings, or the first murder, the second murder, the third murder, or any subsequent murders. I couldn’t just kill off people that way, so I figured I would steer clear of mystery.

However, years later when I was writing YA, I decided to concoct something for reluctant readers—a counter-intuitive idea to start with, like making guns for pacifists or raising beef cattle for vegetarians, so I didn’t mind just this one time murdering someone—on the first page, no less, to get the readers’ attention, and in order to write a piercingly emotional story. With my focus on the grieving process as I wrote the short novel, I didn’t worry about catching the killer. However, when I handed in the manuscript, important people such as my agent and my editor insisted that I needed to solve the murder, so just to make them happy, I phoned my brother, a retired cop, and asked him who was most likely to have done it. He told me, and I plugged in his answer. Fine. Whatever.

To my utter astonishment, the book, once published, won an Edgar.

I still didn’t think I really wrote “mystery.” But this illusion was shattered a year later, when my next book for young people, about a girl who wanted to find out who her parents were, also won an Edgar.

“You should write more mystery,” hinted my literary agent.

So, over the next several years, I gave it a try, and in a move that seems snobbish in hindsight, I shifted gears, aspiring to move out of YA readership and into the grand market of grown-ups. I managed to sell five mystery short stories, and three of them even had murder in them. But that’s about as far as I got with dead bodies. They just didn’t resonate with me, emotionally. Call it a character defect, but I’ve never deeply invested in justice for corpses.

What I have deeply cared about is finding the lost who are alive. Throughout my adult life I have been drawn to books or TV, fiction or nonfiction, about abducted, kidnapped, or missing persons. I attempted two psychological suspense novels involving abducted children, and while both were published, neither of them sold well. So I shrugged and let go of the idea of writing any more of that stuff. Mystery minus murder did not seem to be working for me anymore.

And that would have been the end of it, I think, if my longtime YA editor hadn’t phoned and told me, in his usual pointy-headed impetuous manner, that he wanted me to write something “set in deepest, darkest London at the time of Jack the Ripper.”

What the, um, what the Dickens?  I had written King Arthur stuff and Robin Hood stuff for this editor, but Victorian? I mean, really and truly historical?? I couldn’t. Or at least, I never had. Thrashing about mentally, I flailed for some equivalent of King Arthur or Robin Hood in a top hat and spats, a Victorian legendary hero…

Oh, my stars and garters. Sherlock Holmes.

Now, until this moment, you see, the mystery genre was not thought of.

But after this moment, it was inevitable.

And so was a female protagonist. Feminist that I am, I had given Robin Hood a daughter. Could I do the same for Sherlock Holmes?

No. No, the thought lasted for only an eyeblink. I simply knew that the great and ineluctably bachelor Sherlock Holmes had never, ever begot children. After figuring out the necessary timeline, I was able to give him a much younger sister instead.

Thus, once again, I found myself writing mystery minus murder, because my brainchild Enola Holmes, just like me, wanted to be a Perditorian, a finder of the lost.

It’s a mystery to me how I, having always been a “seat-of-the-pantser” as a writer—how did I manage the plots? Each of the six novels has three plots braided together: Enola looking for her missing mother; Enola eluding her older brothers, who want to send her to a finishing school; and also Enola brilliantly locating some by-the-way missing person. I say by-the-way because the “best part,” as the children say, is not solving the case; it is how utterly and repeatedly Enola outwits Sherlock, to his chagrin and surprising pride. In a way, all six novels together can be seen as a Sherlock Holmes case from the viewpoint of the subject: Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Missing Sister.

True to my previous history in writing YA mysteries minus murder, two of the six Enola Holmes novels were nominated for Edgars. They didn’t win, and I admit I was disappointed, but then, as a sort of consolation prize, I was given a movie, so I can’t complain. And now I have another murderless mystery publication to look forward to: Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche, to be released August 31, 2021. So, regarding mystery minus murder and me, the eventual outcome could not be more salubrious.


Enter the Sweepstakes!

Sign in and comment on this post for a chance to win 3 hardcover copies of Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche by Nancy Springer!

To enter, make sure you’re a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/mystery-minus-murder/ beginning at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) August 30, 2021. Sweepstakes ends at 3:29 p.m. ET September 13, 2021. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 120 Broadway, New York, NY 10271.

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Comments

  1. MaryC

    Introduced my niece to Enola – both of us can’t wait to read to read her latest adventure.

  2. martin bodnar

    thanks for the chance to win!

  3. Trisha

    Can’t wait these are so good!

  4. Joe Titone

    Great Prize!

  5. Liz Beyer

    this looks like a wonderful series that I’m sure I would enjoy!

  6. Ruth Lozano

    Sounds so good!

  7. Karyn M. Newton

    This would be a great read for my daughter!

  8. Danielle Hammelef

    Thank you for the awesome chance!

  9. April

    How creative and talented. I am glad that you persisted and are so successful and accomplished. This book would be for my granddaughter who is an avid reader and would treasure this book.

  10. Trude Vandine

    I love Sherlock-ian Holmes books and can understand mysteries without murder perfectly! I would love to win this prize pack.

  11. Pam Walrath

    Love Enola Holmes character!

  12. Laini

    What a fantastic and great story which shows how you have to persevere. This book is unique and intriguing and my grandson would love it.

  13. Carol Smith

    Congrats on winning the Edgar Award. So glad you decided to
    keep on writing. Thanks for the opportunity to win this prize pack.
    Would love to read & review both books.

  14. Ilene Harris

    Looks good, I would love to read it.

  15. Diana Pratt

    I can’t wait to read this book!

  16. Michael Carter

    I’d love to win this book.
    Yes, please enter me in this sweepstakes.
    Thanks!

  17. Tiffany

    This looks great

  18. Marie Connelly

    I adore all the Enola books and the Netflix movie was sensational. Thanks

  19. paul Klumbach

    sounds intriguing-can’t wait to read this.

  20. Debra J Pruss

    I love the cover. It sounds like a fabulous book. Thank you so much for sharing.

  21. lasvegasnv

    intriguing

  22. Lori Fletcher

    I love that the great Sherlock Holmes finds a teenager, and a girl no less, to be his equal. It is feminist. It is smart. And it is ironic. Love everything about this series!

  23. Cindilee

    read all of the Enola’s years ago, now with the TV show and the new book, thinking of listening again by audio. Such a great series, I’ve recommend to everyone and now, now it’s popular. So glad it is getting the attention it deserves.

  24. Marlene Parker

    Looks like a great read!

  25. AlwaysReading

    I discovered Enola Holmes a few years ago and fell in love! I am currently(!) reading #3 – would love a copy of The Black Barouche – thanks for the chance.

  26. Richard

    I love the character. I have read stories with many different incarnations of Sherlock Holmes and his extended family from teen descendants to younger siblings. The Enola Holmes stories are amongst the best. Keep it coming.

  27. Teresa Allen

    I would love to win this book. Please consider me! Thank you.

  28. Jeana

    I’m so glad that you took the leap and started writing mystery.

  29. Kelly Dibble

    What a great story! Thank you Nancy Springer for bring us Enola Holmes.

  30. Robyn Russell

    Enjoyed the movie, looking forward to the book!

  31. Deb Philippon

    I very much enjoyed reading this, and I would love to win and read the book. Wish me luck!

  32. Desmond Warzel

    Thanks very much!

  33. Rebecca DeMarco

    I loved the Enola Holmes movie. Would love to read the books also. How great that you and Enola found each other! Cheers!

  34. Teresa Warner

    Would love to get a copy!

  35. seashell706

    loved the tv series, would be thrilled to win the book!

  36. John Hall

    Sounds like a series I would love to read.

  37. Karen Hale

    Would love to have a chance to read the book!

  38. Kathy

    Would love to win the book as I love the TV movie! Enola’s story is captivating and wonderful…my fingers are crossed! Thank You for the opportunity!

  39. James R. Skelton

    Looks to be most interesting.

  40. Nicole Seabolt

    Can’t wait to read

  41. Ann E Vitale

    I don’t know how you do it, Nancy Springer. The ideas keep coming and I am so glad.

  42. Lindyhop66

    Robert Smith in North Carolina would like to win. I loved the Netflix series.

  43. Debbie D

    Thank you for the chance to win this book!

  44. ashley M hufft

    I’m so excited to read this!

  45. Anne Hart

    Thank you so much! We live reading these as a family.

  46. Judy Kahn

    Have enjoyed the earlier books in the series & looking forward to this newest one.

  47. Jackie Bas

    Enjoyed reading this piece. Looking forward to reading this book. Imagine that, Sherlock Holmes being thwarted by his brilliant younger sister.

  48. susan atkins

    I love your writing-keep up the good work !

  49. Ruth

    Sounds so good.

  50. BookFun

    I’ve been hearing a lot about these books due to the TV show, and I am intrigued! Do they need to be read in order? Thank you for the opportunity to enter.

  51. Karen

    This is amazing to discover this adult series by Nancy Springer! Just this week I re-read a book from a series my daughter loved once upon a time- Rowan Hood! So excited to check out the Ebola Holmes novels! Thank you for the opportunity to enter the sweepstakes!

    • Karen

      *Enola ( thanks, no thanks, spell correct!😡)

  52. Lynn Taylor

    I read the Enola Holmes books when they first came out and enjoyed them all. I’m glad Netflix made a show to introduce the books to a new audience. I do wish they had had her set up in business like in the books.

  53. amy marantino

    Sounds good

  54. Sherry Brown

    Thank you so much for the chance to win your wonderful book giveaway!!!!

  55. Emily Catan

    Congratulations on your writing achievements!! It’s destined that you should write mystery thrillers, and I’m glad that you did! Thank you for the giveaway!

  56. Shannon Capelle

    This sounds so good! Cant wait to read it! Loved movie and tv series

  57. Suzanne Sorice

    I saw the movie, Enola Holmes, and loved it! I’d love to read these books and to share them with my granddaughter. Thanks for the chance to win.

  58. Karl Barth

    The Netflix movie got me hooked. I hope more of these stories will be on the screen soon.

  59. Dana Matthews

    Congrats on your award! How exciting. Sounds like a wonderful book!

  60. Jean Feingold

    As a writer, I can probably learn from Nancy’s experience.

  61. Susan Morris

    I truly want to read the entire series now! I have not seen the movie, but will look it up, also.

  62. LeMinou

    Sounds like a great read. Terrific cover.

  63. Jill K Porco

    I loved the movie Enola Holmes that aired on Netflix and would love to read this book! Thanks for contest!

  64. JayR

    Getting a movie in lieu of the Edgar is a nice consolation prize. Especially when the movie turns out to be so great that it was one of my favorites of the year. Looking forward to this new book in the series!

  65. Misty R Bulawsky

    I am INTO it!!!

  66. Joye

    I am always looking for new authors to read. Your book sounds like the kind I enjoy reading. Thanks for the chance to win one

  67. Kirsten Kimball

    I found her character on Netflix and fell in love with the story. A longtime, as in the seventies, fan of Sherlock I am enjoying this version.

  68. susan beamon

    Mysteries don’t have to involve murder. Thieves get just as much play. Would love to win the book.

  69. Emilie Griffith

    I read my first Enola Holmes a few weeks ago and loved it!!

  70. Mr Shon

    .Great post. Articles that have meaningful and insightful comments are more enjoyable,

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