Tag Archives: mystery

Decrypting the Secret Flower Messages of Enola Holmes

Enola Holmes is the new movie imagining a feminist, charming, brilliant younger sister to famous detective Sherlock.

One of the critical moments early on is a gift of the Victorian book Language of Flowers, which turns out to be a clue in the bigger mystery. But this movie also leaves floral clues strewn throughout the movie. They are very clever and subtle; I thought I’d decode them.

[Spoilers for the movie follow!]

The first flower we see is when Enola is unwrapping the gift of the Language of Flowers. It’s a pink tulip on a card that says “use these gifts wisely.” Pink tulips stand for caring.

Sherlock reviews the flowers in mother’s room: Chrysanthemums, and Queen Anne’s Lace, symbolizing a steady familial attachment and truth, and sanctuary, respectively. Of course, Chrysanthemums are also called “mums,” a little play on the British term for mother.

Enola finds another card, this one decorated with delicate blue flowers and the words “our future is up to us.” They are only on the screen for a moment, but these seem to be forget-me-nots. In flashbacks of Enola’s mother, she is wearing a blue flower pin: no surprise, this is also a forget-me-not, very suitable for memory, and the very plea that forms the name: please, don’t forget me.

Her mother’s middle name is “Violet,” which means devotion or faithfulness. Even when absent, her mother is devoted to Enola.

When Enola buys a dress, she wears a necklace that seems to have a flower on it. Unfortunately, I can’t see what flower that is, so this one will have to go unsolved! Since the dress is red, perhaps we can assume it is a sweet pea, the symbol of delicate femininity, which is, of course, a joke.

The dress is covered all over in a flower brocade. Perhaps roses? Burgundy roses symbolize unconscious beauty, meaning Enola doesn’t realize how attractive she really is.

While investigating a mystery, Enola takes on the surname “Posey.” This is a play on words as well; she is “posing” as someone else at the time. But a “posey,” to Victorians, was a small collection of flowers, often the means by which these flower messages were transmitted.

The lady of the house wears a blue dress with faded yellow brocade flowers. Unfortunately, I can’t tell what kind, but I’m certain the costume designer has left a reference here, too.

Enola, while on a search for clues on a side mystery, discovers a pressed flower. It looks to me like a cornflower, also known as a “bachelor’s button.” The Victorian book of flowers I cross-referenced here also indicates it stands for hope in love. Because the boy ends up being Enola’s beau, of course!

When she surprises the boy in a flower market, he offers her a white rose tinged with red; innocence and, of course, love. It’s very sweet.

Tellingly, there are no flowers at all in the finishing school. Ms. Harrison’s strict school is unyielding, but also lacks depth. No secret messages here.

Toward the end, Enola’s mother is seen wearing a dress covered in flowers. They are pansies, which can be said to symbolize long-standing love and thinking. Appropriate for the Holmesian mother.

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Review: And Then There Were None

And Then There Were NoneAnd Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

And Then There Were None is an old-school murder mystery novel in the truest sense: it was originally published in 1939, and, of course, is written by mystery great Agatha Christie.

It’s interesting to see how some writing tropes have changed in 75 years: things like dialogue placement and word tense are pretty different. In fact, I doubt a modern publisher would give “And Then There Were None” a close look because of those differences, despite the interesting story.

The set-up is this: 10 strangers are called to a mansion in an isolated island, whereupon a gramophone announces that each is accused of murder in some way. And then, one by one, the visitors are killed off, while the survivors scramble to figure out who could have done it, why, and who is next.

In that, it feels a lot like Clue: The Movie; there’s a lot of scrambling about from room to room, trying to guess at straws. Much like Clue, it also features all manners of death, so you never know what will come next. I actually looked to see if Clue was inspired by this book–it looks like no, but there are strong similarities.

However, when you reach the end, we lose the similarities.

(Spoilers to follow)

Because this book does not conform to the mystery structure we’ve all come to know: no one figures it out and saves the day. In fact, the police arrive a full 24 hours after the last victim has died, and leave without having figured it out. It isn’t until the epilogue that anything is explained, and–well, honestly, I think Christie may have cheated the reader some. I don’t think the result is truly “guessable”; it’s a rigged game.

That unsatisfactory ending was a disappointment to me, but it is a good lesson that sometimes the old standby structure is there for a reason. And, of course, it’s not wrong to mess with it. Just not something that appealed to me in this case.

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Review: The Bride Wore Size 12

The Bride Wore Size 12  (Heather Wells #5)The Bride Wore Size 12 by Meg Cabot

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I admit I’m a little disappointed…but that could be my own fault: it turns out I started a series on #5 (oops) and mistook the author for Jennifer Weiner (my bad). But congrats to Cabot’s marketing team! I picked up the book because of the title and because I had seen posters around, so not a total loss.

So, like I said, I came into this series at exactly the wrong point. But it is charming and fun and a nice little mystery to nibble on.

Basically, for those who are as lost as I was, this book is about Heather Wells, a nice enough girl who is about to get married at the end of the month to her tasty PI boyfriend. She works as a residence hall administrator at a college, and she really just wants to get through to the wedding… but the dead girl messes that all up. So Heather takes time out of her busy schedule to solve a murder, too.

I admit it: I only picked up this book because it had the word “bride” in it and, as a very recently married person, I was hoping to enjoy some fictionalized wedding stress. I wanted to see if all the crazy chaos that went into wedding-planning made it into a book.

…it didn’t. In drips, maybe, but really everything in the title is completely disregarded. Rubbish title, in terms of relating to the story at all. I mean, sure, it is periodically mentioned that “OMG Heather is a BRIDE!” but, let me tell you, I had a lot more panic going on in the month before my wedding, and I was, as my groom put it, not a bride-zilla but bride-chilla.

And I have no idea where the size 12 nonsense came from, aside from once or twice mentioning that Heather enjoys a morning bagel (unnecessary fat-shaming, excellent).

So I hated the title and the book wasn’t at all what I expected, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. It was fun.

I found it particularly interesting to see Cabot’s perspective on working in college administration, something I know about first-hand a bit. It’s not exactly a common career path, so I found that refreshing and interesting.

The murder and related sub-plot was a little transparent for my taste, but this is meant to be light reading, so I can’t fault it too much. Overall I thought it was charming, though I don’t think I care to step back into Heather’s world much more.

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