Rating: 3.5 Stars
Holmes and Watson will forever be Holmes and Watson no matter how they’re written. I just want to throw that out there as a disclaimer before I get into this review because I think it’s a good thing to keep in mind.
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro is a Sherlock Holmes retelling set in a world where Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson actually existed, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was just their publisher, and their great-great-great-great-something or other’s mirror them with eerie symmetry over a century later. Young Charlotte Holmes and James Watson somehow find themselves together at the same boarding school in Connecticut. So when a body turns up staged like something right out of the original Adventures of Sherlock Holmes the two teens come to the quick realization that they are being framed and a friendship is forged between them as they set out to clear their names.
The beginning of this book grabbed me immediately and I wound up reading late into the night courtesy of great writing and drinking too much coffee too late in the day. Jamie Watson was the perfect voice to tell this story. I found myself easily drawn into his narration style and that remained true throughout the whole of the book. Much to the surprise of someone who has forever favored Sherlock, the Watson in this book was hands down my favorite character.
In the second half of the book I felt my interest waning a bit; though my love of Jamie never wavered he did begin to frustrate me and shortly before the grand finale my patience with Charlotte began to wear thin. By the time the big climax happened I was reading more out of not wanting to DNF than out of actual interest in the story and the way things were going to wrap up. So while the ending was exciting, there were twists and turns, and I did want to know how all of the loose ends would be tied up I wasn’t right on the edge of my seat the way I probably should have been. All in all the ending was satisfying and I don’t feel that there were any questions left unanswered so that was good.
I found this book to be unpredictable in its predictability and I suppose that’s because it was a very straightforward retelling. Holmes is a sociopath with drug issues. Watson is a writer with enough loyalty to put my dog to shame. The Holmes siblings have a complicated relationship. Moriarty’s are involved in nefarious ways. I guess what I’m saying is I kept waiting for a twist that made this story original and in that waiting I was kept in suspense until the very end for a surprise reveal that never came. For me the ending was too easy and I was deeply disappointed by that.
As I’m sure you know, this book features a female Holmes and a male Watson both under the age of eighteen. I was intrigued but cautious of this because up until now I have not been any kind of fan of switching up the genders in the Holmes\Watson dynamic (Elementary, in my opinion, was a total bust). This book did it much better in that respect than I was expecting. My main qualms with the authors chosen dynamic are these:
-First off I will never support a Holmes\Watson romantic pairing. Is it such a crime for people to just be best friends? There’s no heavy romance in this story, like most things where Holmes’ are involved anything involving emotion was smothered and confusing but it was a bit more than implied. I have no doubt this dynamic will be built upon further in the second book and I am not in favor of it.
-I did like the female ‘Sherlock’ concept. Sherlock Holmes is a generally unlikable character only redeemed by his oddly charming quirks and surprising moments of depth. In a man that was easily accepted but give a woman those qualities and it’s a lot harder to swallow. I think this is because we expect women to be soft and gentle with a deep emotional wellspring. Charlotte isn’t like that and while that jarred me at first I soon found myself valuing those qualities in here. Women are not one thing and strangely this book demonstrates that better than most.
So overall I found this book to be an engaging, if not groundbreaking, read that brought an entertaining perspective to a set of well loved characters. Sure there was triteness but there were new elements as well and even if I didn’t love all of them those are what I prefer to focus on. The characters were dynamic and the pacing was good. I will be reading the sequel soon and I hope to see more character growth in that because I know these characters have so much potential.