Neo-Victorian Girl Sleuths for Today’s Middle-Grade Readers

The Enola Holmes (2006-present) and the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency (2015-2018) Novels


  • Tara Moore Elizabethtown College



adaptation, agency, biofiction, children’s literature, detective fiction, Enola Holmes Mysteries series, feminism, Ada Lovelace, Mary Shelley, Wollstonecraft Detective Agency series


Middle-grade readers, those aged eight to twelve, encounter lessons in feminism through a range of neo-Victorian mystery novels featuring girl sleuths. This essay shines light on two such series that offer exciting adventure narratives couched within biofiction. Jordan Stratford’s Wollstonecraft Detective Agency series (2015-2018) gleefully bends chronological dates to allow a young Mary Godwin (later Shelley) to befriend Ada Byron (later Lovelace); the series’ four novels infill the thought-lives of these young writers, depicting them as creators of knowledge even during the period of their juvenilia. Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes series (2006-present) uses life-writing to give voice to a Victorian girl’s perspectives on the burdens of living in a patriarchal culture. The girls’ cases develop a lineage of great Victorian women figures like Mary Somerville, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Florence Nightingale, women who are introduced within the context of their published work. The article further examines how women characters write in code as a way to communicate knowledge seen as deviant by patriarchal systems.