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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Study in Charlotte
by Brittany Cavallaro

Release Date: March 1, 2016
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Series: Charlotte Holmes #1
Age Group: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Pages: 321
Buy: Amazon / Barnes & Noble /
IndieBound / Book Depository
Description: Goodreads
The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

Picture a world in which Holmes and Watson literally roamed the streets of London solving crimes. Yes, not just in the hearts and minds of enamored readers everywhere. Now, several generations later, what would the legacies of those families have become? Well, I’m glad you asked, because that is what Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are learning for themselves at boarding school as they are thrown together by an unknown villain framing them for murders on campus that recreate Sherlockian crimes.

Yes, I’m a nerd for all things Sherlock, and I was pleasantly surprised by this new installment in the genre. It’s darker and cleverer than I expected. It pays homage to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but is an entirely new book that doesn’t really require familiarity with the original stories (although those will certainly enhance the reading). It also avoids being cutesy, which I truly appreciated, and was a little worried about given the title.

I thought it would be a light hearted modern day take on the great detective stories, but it is surprisingly dark, in keeping with the Holmes oeuvre, and it doesn’t shy away from many issues for which the detective and biographer were known. In fact, it deals with family histories of addiction and the difficulties of living up to expectations of fame and recognition. In a world where the name Holmes evokes a history of cleverness and standoffishness, this is a well realized portrayal of how that pressure might carry down through the generations. 

Brittany Cavallaro also plays with the reasons why two teenagers who are the descendants of Watson and Holmes might want to avoid each other, while also being drawn to a person who could understand their very unique situations. Charlotte and Jamie enjoy as strange and often tenuous relationship that seems, in some ways to have been inevitable. Their own case certainly draws them together, but our current Watson never seems quite as bumbling or awe struck as the original sometimes would. Rather, he is a supportive and necessary foil to his Holmes. 

The mystery does include many of the red herrings I’ve come to expect from a Doyle inspired mystery, but it doesn’t unravel quite the same way. There weren’t as many scenes in which Holmes revealed the solution as a result of countless tiny clues that weren’t even mentioned previously, and honestly, it can be nice to follow a case you might be able to solve on your own. Or try to.

I highly recommend this book and hope there are many more to come. I don’t want to spoil anything for the readers, but I’ll just say that Moriarty has descendants as well… 

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