Colleen Gleason has taken two infamous characters and created young, ingenious nieces who have taken up the gauntlet and followed in the paths of their family. Evaline Stoker and Mina Holmes are inspired by their namesakes to be a slayer of vampires and a clever detective, respectively, in the third installment of the Stoker and Holmes series: The Chess Queen Enigma.
Alternating chapters in the story, the girls tell us their perspective of the mystery set before them. Each girl is unique in her own talent and oftentimes annoyed by the lack of this trait in her cohort. Regardless of their differences, they both loathe the Ankh, their nemesis, who they must capture before she brings ruin to the relationship between England and Betrovia.
The dark and dismal streets of London are described in luring detail as we follow our young detectives into the throes of darkness to find the missing chess piece that unlocks a treasure that has been hidden for decades. We meet Mycroft Holmes, his brother Sherlock and Bram Stoker among other undead characters. The girls are not without mischief as they use disguises to sneak into a gentlemen’s club to find clues to lure the Ankh out into open society. It is a fun, fast-paced mystery for anyone enjoying a glimpse into the Victorian Era through the eyes of two crime-fighting young societal ladies.
In the classroom:
Gleason has done her research on the Victorian era, Bram Stoker and Arthur Conan Doyle to produce a multitude of paths for the English, math or science teacher. The girls conduct experiments and fight the undead. They understand their feminine roles in this era, but despise the constraints placed upon them. Although this book is YA it can easily cross over to Middle Grades (MG) as well as adults who enjoy vampires and mystery.
Have your students “conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration” (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.7). This assignment qualifies for multiple levels across the Common Core Standard for 6th through 8th grades. It can easily be modified for the upper levels who are reading Stoker and Doyle. The research projects could be as simple as the broad topic of the Victorian era or they could more narrowly focus on the female dress code of the Victorian era.
I would recommend this to anyone in the MG as a solid introduction to higher level reading subjects as it is an easy read. It is an addition to the school library as well as a book to put on the shelves for students to read in your classroom.
The Chess Queen Enigma: Stoker & Holmes #3 by Colleen Gleason (Chronicle Books | 9781452143170 | October 6, 2015)