Series: Charlotte Holmes #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on March 1st 2016
Source: Publisher, Edelweiss
Genres: Contemporary, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Mystery, Young Adult
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The last thing sixteen-year-old Jamie Watson–writer and great-great-grandson of the John 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 enigmatic, fiercely independent great-great-granddaughter, who’s inherited not just his genius but also his vices, volatile temperament, and expertly hidden vulnerability. Charlotte has been the object of his fascination for as long as he can remember–but from the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else.
Then a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Holmes stories, and Jamie and Charlotte become the prime suspects. Convinced they’re being framed, they must race against the police to conduct their own investigation. As danger mounts, it becomes clear that nowhere is safe and the only people they can trust are each other.
Equal parts tender, thrilling, and hilarious, A Study in Charlotte is the first in a trilogy brimming with wit and edge-of-the-seat suspense.
I am a massive fan of Sherlock the TV show. It’s probably my favourite TV show ever. I’m also a big fan of the original Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (even though I’ve only read a couple of the short stories and two of the novels). Therefore, A Study in Charlotte seemed like the perfect read for me because no Sherlock fan would say no to more Sherlock or Sherlock-inspired stories. Sadly, I set my expectations a little bit too high and this book fell a little bit short for me.
But first, let’s talk about what I enjoyed about this book. This was by no means a bad book and lots of fans of Sherlock would love this and eat it right up. It has characters that will remind you of Sherlock and Watson, and for those of you going through Sherlock withdrawals, this will fill the gaping hole in your heart! It also has a wonderful mystery that references and incorporates some of the elements in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original works that will have you dying to read the original stories. I also thought that it was wonderfully translated to a high school setting, and I enjoyed reading a modern, high school detective mystery that was reminiscent of a Sherlock Holmes story.
“My mum was cross with Milo for teasing me. He kept telling me Santa Claus was real.”
“I’m sorry,” I asked, “Was? Don’t you mean wasn’t?”
However, I had many problems with the execution of this book, especially the characterisation. For me, the characters of Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson too closely resembled Sherlock Holmes and John Watson for me to enjoy the book. Their mannerisms were similar, as was the relationship dynamic (minus the romance, of course). The characters were so similar that Charlotte was a violin-playing chain smoker and drug user, much like Sherlock. Jamie is an aspiring writer who once wanted to be a doctor, like Dr. John Watson. There was just nothing unique or original about these characters for me and it felt like Cavallaro decided to just take some well-known and well-loved characters and give them a high school setting, rather than develop her own characters. Just because Charlotte and Jamie are supposed to be descendants of Sherlock and John, it doesn’t mean that they need to have the same habits, hobbies and personality. If this was an adaptation like the TV show, I’d be totally fine with it. But this is a retelling/reimagining and I needed the characters to not be the same as the originals.
My other problem with the characters was that I found them very hard to connect with and I didn’t particularly like either of them, which I found odd because I love both Sherlock and John Watson. I found Jamie to be extremely whiny, needy and dependent on Charlotte and her friendship, but his character did improve once he started becoming more useful. Charlotte was enigmatic and aloof and just difficult to relate to or connect with, especially because we don’t get to read from her perspective. Her character was far too Manic Pixie Dream Girl for my liking. In addition to me not relating to Charlotte’s character, I thought it was ridiculous how far the author took Charlotte’s deductive reasoning abilities. It’s one of Sherlock’s quirks that most fans love, but in A Study in Charlotte, Charlotte just came across as psychic rather than extremely observant and logical. Half the time, there were no explanations given for how she came to certain conclusions and it was hard to suspend my disbelief. There were times when she tried to give explanations but was cut off by other characters who weren’t interested in her thought process. It came across to me as laziness on the author’s part.
Jamie and Charlotte’s friendship/partnership was a little bit strange for me. Jamie is pretty much obsessed with Holmes from the very beginning. He fantasises constantly about the adventures they’d go on if they were a detective pair. The book never goes into their history (if they even had one besides being descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson), so I found it quite odd how quickly and randomly they became friends. The romance also came out of the blue for me and it was too abrupt. Overall, I didn’t see any natural development in their relationship throughout the book.
I also had some problems with the execution of the plot and the mystery. A Study in Charlotte definitely does not have the same precision, clarity and logic that the original Sherlock Holmes stories have. There were many things that were confusing to me as a reader. At a couple of points in the book, I had to flip back through the pages and check to make sure I hadn’t missed any details. There were also mentions of important things that had happened or that the characters had done after the fact but these things weren’t shown earlier to the reader. Therefore, I thought that some of the things that we were told were just conveniently added in as they became necessary to the plot. Along the same lines, the epilogue written from Charlotte’s perspective, although I thought it was a nice touch, also seemed like a last minute addition to explain everything that might not have been clear or well-explained in the novel. It was this kind of ‘lazy writing’ that put me off the book a little bit.
The story arc and the mystery for me was a little bit lacking. It wasn’t as exciting and thrilling as I had expected it to be. There were many elements that were similar to the original stories so there was nothing that I found to be particularly shocking. The reveal at the end was not surprising for me at all and I didn’t think it was particularly well-resolved. I did enjoy the story but it felt a little bit confused and I was disappointed with the execution of it.
This wasn’t a bad book by any means and it is probably a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”, but I was disappointed with A Study in Charlotte. I didn’t think the characters were original, and the plot and mystery for me were underdeveloped, confused and slightly predictable, especially for a fan of Sherlock. I didn’t think the novel was particularly well-executed and there were some elements that I thought were kind of lazy. However, I do plan to continue with the trilogy because I love detective stories and the high school setting worked well in A Study in Charlotte.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Thank you to HarperCollins for the eARC!