A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro Review: Sherlocked? Yes. Charlocked? Not quite.

February 17, 2016 by Jenna | 3 stars, ARC Reviews, Books, Reviews

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro Review: Sherlocked? Yes. Charlocked? Not quite.A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
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?”
“No.”

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.

epiloguepink

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

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Thank you to HarperCollins for the eARC! 

Jenna-Sig

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Jenna is an Aussie blogger and reader who loves to indulge in great books and great food. You can usually find me binge reading series, fangirling with fellow readers, devouring pastries, or binge watching Netflix shows. You can find me on Twitter @readwithjenna and on Instagram @readingwithjenna.

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46 responses to “A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro Review: Sherlocked? Yes. Charlocked? Not quite.

  1. Cyn @ Bookmunchies

    I just posted my review of this, haha. I'm a huge fan of Sherlock, too! So I really took down my expectation for this book when I read and I ended up really enjoying it, haha. I can totally see what you mean about the lazy writing and I think it's almost that you're expected to know the characters already because they're based on Holmes/Watson that there is a lack of development for Charlotte and Jamie.

    I actually didn't mind that quick Jamie/Charlotte bonding, I kind of took it as in this universe there's a Watson for every Holmes and Jamie was Charlotte's, so screw logical friendship development 😉

    Great review Jenna! Hopefully the next book will be better developed (:
    My recent post Review: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

    • Ahhh I probably shouldn't have set my expectations so high. I guess I just thought it was going to be amazing because of all the hype surrounding the book. It wasn't all a fail though, so I'm still keen to see what the next book brings. I really want to meet Moriarty and I hope he's a better developed character.

  2. Huh that is interesting. I wonder if the characters were based off of the actual TV show? Like almost a fanfiction but in high school and changed into different characters? Because it really sounds like it from the lack of background and history!

    Either way, I'm glad you still enjoyed it Jenna! I have this on my TBR, so I'm going to have to see what I think about it 🙂
    My recent post Guest Review: Life and Death in the Third Reich

    • Yeah a couple of people have mentioned fanfiction in the comments above and I think that's the way that I would describe it too. It's not really a retelling/reimagining. It definitely leans more fanfiction where canon characters are just put into a new world and given small changes (in this case, gender). It was pretty annoying and disappointing to see that the characters were almost carbon copies of the TV show characters. Can't wait to hear your thoughts when you read this one, Val!

  3. Awww…I'm sorry to hear this was a bet meh for you Jenna. 🙁 You know it's underwhelming when a Sherlock fan doesn't like a Sherlock retelling – haha. But I can definitely see where you're coming from: predictable and underdeveloped mysteries are never fun. Nevertheless, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and, as always, fabulous review! <3

    • Yeah I was pretty disappointed with this one because I had really high expectations. I'll know to lower my expectations for the next one, I guess…

  4. I really want to read this book, but I wasn't sure how I'd like it 😮 I so miss the Sherlock TV show T.T I wish it were back right now…I'm sorry you didn't connect with the characters, it really stinks when that happens. I'm sorry it didn't live up to your expectations 🙁

    • Omg I miss the TV show so much. I wish there were more episodes too but that would probably mean waiting another 2 years for the next season haha. I just didn't find the characters to be very original in this novel and that really ended up disconnecting me from everything that was going on. I guess it was still enjoyable…

  5. I think Ellie Marney's Every series has ruined me for all Sherlock type retellings, it was just that good. I must admit, I'm not a fan of the TV series, but love discovering mysteries. It just sounds like the characters just didn't have that likability needed to immerse yourself and that's the fastest way to turn me off any read. Glad to see you wanting to continue the series though and hopefully it gets better from here on out. Wonderful review Jenna <3
    My recent post The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima

    • I'm ashamed that I still haven't read Ellie Marney's series *hangs head*. I guess I was worried that it would ruin Sherlock for me but everybody seems to love it so I'll definitely give it a go! I'm interested to see what the author is going to do with the sequel to A Study in Charlotte. Since most of my problems are related to the characterisation, I'm not sure if the series will improve for me, but we'll see.

  6. Oh no I'm sorry that you weren't able to enjoy this one as much as you'd hoped Jenna, it's always more disappointing especially when you go into a book with high expectations and instead it ends up letting you down. I always find that I need some sort of connections with characters to make the book work for me too, so sorry that was lacking too, but thank you for your honest review, I hope your next read is a lot more enjoyable. (Btw I really need to start Sherlock!)

    • You should totally watch Sherlock! I absolutely love that show and I can rewatch those episodes until the end of time haha. But if you plan to read the book, you should watch the TV show after so that you don't have the same problems with the characterisation that I do!

  7. Oh jeez, the term Manic Pixic Dream Girl scares me, especially involved in a book I've been anticipating. haha. I'm not too fluent in the story of Sherlock, but yeah. I'm slightly resistant about the story now, especially with the random psychic ability. Glad it wasn't a total fail!

    • I think it was the characterisation that bothered me the most so you might not have the same problem with the book as me, if you're not that familiar with Sherlock? I still thought it was an enjoyable story, just not as clear and logical as a mystery/detective story needs to be.

  8. aentee @ read at midnight

    Ack, I'm sorry this one didn't work for you. It's a shame when the characters of retelling draw too much from their original incarnations. It reminds us that they are pale imitations. At least you will always have the Sherlock series to rewatch. Have you seen Elementary? I love that take on Sherlock Holmes as well.

    • I haven't seen Elementary yet because there are so many seasons out already that it's kinda daunting! But I love the idea of Watson being female (also, I love Lucy Liu!). I shall try to give the show a go this year.

  9. sumlynnnguyen

    With all the reservations you had it seems like 3 stars was pretty generous! And what? How can they be so similar to Sherlock Holmes and John Watson but you don't like them? That's disappointing! And I'm sorry there was very little originality in the characters. I agree, just because they're descendants doesn't mean they should have genes for identical personalities (I know that statement totally went against science since personalities aren't passed down-well not genetically, I mean). I was sort of excited for this but I think I'll pass. :/
    My recent post A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

    • Yeah, I wasn't expecting to not like the characters since I LOVE Sherlock and Watson! I guess, I wasn't expecting the characters to be so similar. I mean, Charlotte took drugs, played the violin like a pro, was really blunt with others… just seemed exactly like Sherlock. The characters didn't feel original at all because they were just stolen from the TV show. I was just massively disappointed with the characterisation. The plot was okay but had some holes… Overall it was disappointing.

  10. AHHHH I love the Sherlock TV show too. So cleverly written. And Benedict Cumberbatch obviously just makes it <3 <3 BUT OMG I love detective stories. I used to love the Trixie Belden books with all my heart (much better than Nancy Drew, just saying). Although it sounds like it's probably not the best retelling of Sherlock Holmes…especially with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl thing. Ew.
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    • Benedict Cumberbatch is AMAZING in the TV show! I think A Study in Charlotte is still worth a read but don't expect a lot from it? The characters are pretty much exactly the same as those from the TV show… so it would either annoy you, like it did me, or make you love it because the characters are so similar. But yeah, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl thing was a big turn off.

    • Yeah, I think this book would be a great read for anyone who's not familiar with the original works or the TV shows. But the characters were just carbon copies of the originals, so I couldn't really enjoy this book. The plot of it is okay but there are quite a few gaps. Overall, it was just kinda disappointing.

    • Yeah! It feels like a fanfic! It's like the author took the characters from the TV show and just transported them to a boarding school in America. It's definitely not bad but I expected a lot more, since there was so much hype about it as well.

    • I've always been interested in Ellie Marney's books but I was too scared to read them because I didn't know if they'd live up to my expectations! Glad to know that they're really good!

  11. Hmm, I'm not sure how I'd feel about this one. On one hand, I don't think I'd mind as much a you that the characters were very similar to their ancestors. However, Sherlock's thought process is the best part, so I would definitely miss that.
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    • Yeah I absolutely love Sherlock's whole deductive reasoning thing and it is present in this book but it wasn't well-explained (or even explained at all) so it seemed like Charlotte was just psychic, as opposed to super logical.

    • Definitely props to the author. I just wish it was a bit more original? It just felt too much like…Sherlock and other stuff I've read before.

  12. ichabod2014ic

    Hi Jenna!
    I am a life-long fan of the Conan Doyle stories. I have devoured them all many times. I also like the many interpretations of Sherlock. Normally, I am a snob about such things, but I like Sherlock in every incarnation of book, film, and television.
    Happy Reading!
    ~Icky. 🙂

    • I hope you give this book a chance if you enjoy Sherlock! It was still an enjoyable read but I expected something that was a little bit more original since it's not an adaptation or interpretation of Conan Doyle's stories, but a retelling/reimagining.

  13. As a huge fan of Sherlock myself (I've been watching Elementary lately and it's fun if you're looking for another show to appeal to the Sherlock fan in you), I was really excited about this one. The fact that the two characters are outright the carbon copy of the original characters bothers me because I'm sure these two won't stand out to me. And you not being able to connect with the characters is another sign that maybe this one isn't going to be for me. The plot and the story being underdeveloped makes me super sad too, Jenna. Anyways, I'll still give this a try since I have a copy, but I will remember what you had to say about it. I'll get back to you about it once I'm done. 🙂
    Lovely review, Jenna!
    My recent post You Are Cordially Invited to Nick & Nereyda’s Literary Dinner Party

    • I haven't watched Elementary yet but I've always wanted to! Just a bit daunted by starting a new show them there are so many season already but I'll definitely give it a go. I was super excited about this book because I was going through some serious Sherlock withdrawals. I expected the characters in this book to have similarities with the original characters but they were actually just a carbon copy of the BBC Sherlock characters! It was really frustrating to read about because I couldn't help but think "oh here we go again. Another Sherlock characteristic."

      I think it's still an enjoyable read but definitely lower your expectations. My expectations were way too high because of the hype and it ended up being really disappointing. But I'm keen to hear your thoughts when you're done with the book!

  14. Bieke (Nelly B.)

    So far I've only read similar reviews of this one and seeing as how I'm not all that interested in the first place, this book isn't very high on my TBR.

    • I've actually only seen rave reviews of this so I thought I was the odd one out! I'll be checking out some more GR reviews now that I know others thought it was mediocre too! It was still enjoyable so I could still recommend it. But definitely lower your expectations!

  15. Grace @ RebelMommyBB

    This one is coming up for me so this is a little disappointing to see. I will say I am not super familiar with Sherlock and Holmes besides on a very superficial level. Maybe that will be better for me, who knows. Sorry this wasn't better for you. Great review!
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    • I definitely think you'll enjoy this one a lot more if you're not that familiar with the original Sherlock Holmes or the TV adaptation! I just found it to be way too similar to the originals so it felt kinda lazy and not very original to me. It was still enjoyable so I think you might really like this one? I still think the mystery wasn't resolved very well and was kind of predictable though…

  16. When you first told me about this Jenna, I was pretty disappointed because of the lazy wririnfuand characterisation. I mean that drug part doesn't sound handled well and the characters sound under developed carbon copies. I actually laughed at what you said about Charlotte being psychic lol. Great review!

    • I'm convinced that girl is psychic. She has to be. There's no other explanation. Or maybe her random, unexplained drug addiction gives her strange psychic abilities. I can't even deal with how similar these characters were to Sherlock and Watson. It's like they were reincarnated into the same family 150 years later. I guess it was still an enjoyable read but I hope the next book is a lot better.

  17. I'm one of those people who completely ate this up, Jenna! I enjoyed Charlotte and Jamie a lot, and I thought it was fun to see them both transported from England to the US to a boarding school…
    I totally get the negative points you mention tough, I just didn't mind those at all while reading this myself 🙂 Great review!
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    • Glad to hear that you enjoyed it. I think it just wasn't for me. I liked the modern boarding school setting and thought it was a great idea for a Sherlock-inspired story. I just wasn't a huge fan of the characters because they seemed quite underdeveloped. Hopefully the next book can change my mind!

  18. OMG I AM 100% THE SAME AS YOU HERE, JENNA!! Like I liked it???? I think??? but I totally agree the characters felt horribly underdeveloped and why on EARTH where they just carbon copies of the originals? Because who is exactly like their great-great-grandfathers or whatever? Seriously. Plus I was really angry at how Charlotte's drug addiction was handled. It was all "oh well Sherlock was a druggie so Charlotte is just destined to be…whatever". NOOOO. There was not even any backstory for why she was taking drugs and garh. I felt it was a really heavy topic used far too flippantly. >_> And I didn't like Jamie because a) James is Moriarty's name????? and b) his whole "punch everything" was really irritating to me. Hmm. Also the mystery, like you said, didn't seem really … Holmesy.

    But like it was still an okay read?? So at least there's that. xD

    • OMG I'm so glad to find someone who agrees! Everybody seems to LOVE this book and I thought it was just okay. It was a nice read but I found myself really disconnected from it and laughing in disbelief at all the similarities with the original. My overall impression was that it was just lazy. Lazy characterisation, lazy plot development… It was kinda like, let's take some well-loved characters and write them as high schoolers and then give them a plot that's half-based on the original short stories. And how anticlimactic was the reveal?! It was completely predictable and I couldn't help but think "THAT'S IT??!" I'll probably still read the next book but my expectations are now super low.