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Review: A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

march-mystry2

study charlotteThe 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.

A Study in Charlotte is the first in a trilogy.

Those who know me know just how much I love a Holmes and Watson retelling, so I was pretty excited to receive a copy of this one. A feminist retelling with a strong female Sherlock? Displaced Brits in a US boarding school? Holmes, Watson and even Moriarty as real-life individuals descended from real-life ancestors? Homage paid to past Holmes stories? Long-standing family issues for all? Catnip, I say.

Jamie Watson and  Charlotte Holmes don’t meet under the best of circumstances; while Jamie wishes it were otherwise, Charlotte has zero interest at first in even being friendly. Soon, however, the pair is thrown together to solve a mystery when they are framed for the crime; they are reluctantly brought together to share information and deductions and despite their best intentions, they begin to form a partnership.

Jamie has an idealized version of Charlotte – intrepid detective, dashing about and solving mysteries – that is soon brought crashing to earth. Charlotte is a very intelligent, very damaged young woman, complete with  her namesake’s vices of drug use, self-destructive behaviours and some secrets that she’s not about to reveal. In return, Charlotte discovers that Jamie is a little lost; wanting the kinship of his family history, but estranged from his father and not entirely sure of his place in the school, let alone the world. We learn about Charlotte primarily through Jamie’s POV, so his frustrations with Charlotte become our own.

Charlotte may be one my new favourite detectives; shattered and fragile and complicated and so, so intelligent, she kind of broke my heart (as well as Jamie’s) by her actions, but she was justified. She had no problem talking about what Lee Dobson had done to her, even knowing that her drug use might cause her expulsion, because he needed to be called out for his actions. While her actions may appear stark, her bluntness hides her vulnerability and protects her from getting so close to someone that she might be hurt again. Having said that, her relationship with her brother is complicated and fantastic; I look forward to more info about their backstory in future books, and about him in particular. Her reluctant acceptance and growing affection for Jamie is well written and clear to the reader, even as Jamie may have difficulties seeing the truth.

For me, the building relationship between Watson and Holmes was as fascinating as the mystery itself. I loved how bits and pieces of each character’s past were teased and drawn out, and how both Jamie and Charlotte had to let go in order to trust each other enough to share info and move forward with the case. The Easter eggs are plentiful, but those readers unfamiliar with the original Conan-Doyle stories won’t feel left out, as there are enough clear directives to keep readers on the right path. I appreciated that the author brought the Moriarty’s forward early on in the plot, and that the usual suspects were suspicious for a reason – too often authors play with red herrings, not realizing that Occam’s razor is a viable option in mystery novels.

I’m looking forward to the next books in the series, and to seeing how author Brittany Cavallaro moves her characters onwards. A must read for any Sherlock fan, but a fantastic introduction for those new to the mythology.

A Study in Charlotte is published by Katherine Tegen Books, and distributed by  HarperCollins Canada. It is available now for purchase from retailers here, here and here. ISBN: 9780062398901, 336 pages. 

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Categorised in: March Mystery, Madness, and Mayhem, Reviews

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