A Study in Charlotte

Despite a deep love for BBC’s Sherlock and Ellie Marney’s astonishingly good Every series, I can’t pretend that I’m a fan of the original Sherlock Holmes. I’ve only read “A Scandal in Bohemia” and that was several years ago, so I’ve just barely dipped my toes in the pool when it comes to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. Nevertheless, I was excited to try Brittany Cavallaro’s Sherlock-flavoured YA novel, A Study in Charlotte

Rather than a straightforward retelling, the story revolves around descendants of the original Holmes and Watson: Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson. According to multiple sources, their personalities are quite similar to their illustrious ancestors: Charlotte is often cold, full of clever deductions and a general disdain for people who aren’t as bright as her; Jamie is warmer, but has a red-hot temper that can get him in trouble. They meet at a boarding school (Sherringford!), and within the first twenty pages, they’re being framed for the murder of a fellow student. 

It’s a mostly enjoyable mystery: the plot is good, the clues are laid out nicely, and there’s a ton of references to Conan Doyle’s series (those are actually part of the murder investigation). It made me want to read the original stories so that I could appreciate the allusions more, but they were all explained enough that I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. 

Truth be told, I liked that blurriness. That line where reality and fiction jutted up against each other.

I did, however, feel like I was missing something when it came the characters. When they first meet, Charlotte seems reluctant to be the Holmes to Jamie’s Watson. But as soon as someone is murdered, they’re best friends, and it felt too abrupt – there was no visible (to me, at least) shift in their relationship, no gradual development, nor a scene that explained why Charlotte was suddenly so content to have a new “sidekick”. Jamie had a bit of an obsession with Charlotte before they even met, so of course he starts to fall for her (not quite insta-love, but since I seem to have missed the part where they became BFFs, it felt quick), and it will be interesting to see where their relationship goes since Charlotte has several trust issues. 

I was also unsure about Charlotte’s drug habit. While it was true to the original Sherlock’s character, it’s a bit perplexing to have a heroine with an oxycodone addiction and to NOT have any of the other characters try to talk her out of it. I’m not naive enough to think that no teenagers have drug problems, but you’d think Jamie would try to wean her off of it (there’s a note in the last chapter where she claims to be clean, but by that point, she’s already been abusing drugs for at least five years because no one did anything about it). 

We weren’t Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. I was ok with that, I thought. We had things they didn’t, too. Like electricity, and refrigerators. And Mario Kart.

The sequel, The Last of August, comes out this year (though since I bought the first one in paperback, I’ll have to wait another year at least for my set to match), and I know that the Moriarty family plays a bigger role, so she’s got my curiosity piqued. I’m just not sure if I ship Holmes/Watson yet (probably because I’m still not over Mycroft/Watts in Every Breath. You want chemistry in a Sherlock-inspired book, go read those and thank me later).