Hello hello and welcome or welcome back to my little bookish corner of the internet. Today I’m sharing with you my review of A Study in Charlotte, a new take on Holmes and Watson which I think really has a lot of weight to give to today’s audiences.
Trigger Warnings: Drugs use off and on page, discussion of rape and sexual assault
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.
As is traditional, the adventures are narrated by Watson, with Holmes as an almost constant feature to the page from the moment they meet. Before he’s spending time with her, Jamie is thinking about her almost constantly, whether conciously or not, and once they become an undeniable duo, she is always there, the literal Holmes to his Watson.
The idea that they are the decendants of the original pair is such a clever concept, and works remarkably well. Jamie has his father to quiz for help when it comes to handling a Holmes, and Charlotte has her brother Milo who is remarkably similar to the original brother of the protagonist in many ways. Sherlock Holmes will never go out of style, and Charlotte Holmes is here to join him.
There were lots of clever little references as well as it still be a truly unique story. Charlotte well demonstrates the expectations of girls, and particularly girls who break those expectations, and how they are still seen as outcasts even in a world that claims to be modernized. The author handles Charlotte’s trauma particularly well, with her at one point telling Jamie that she can just about tolerate to be touched in any way since the assault she went through. This resonated so clearly with me that it made me cry, and I read the passage several times before carrying on. It was like acknowledgement, acceptance, and permission to be traumatized on a page, and maybe it was the day I was having that made it hit so hard, but I think it’s far more about the author’s skill.
Jamie Watson is a curious creature whom I came to really care for throughout the process of the book. He is another imperfect character, someone who wants to meet someone half way, who is willing to put in the work, and is wanting to improve upon the basis he has as a person to be someone better. And not just because he is a Watson, but because of who he is as an individual. Similarly to Charlotte, it takes me a lot to trust men because of my own trauma, so for me to take to a male lead in a book takes a lot, and Jamie managed that. He was imperfect, real, witty, kind, and furious with the world; a real mixing pot of emotions that sends down echos from his ancestor, as well as showing what the modern world can do to teenagers.
The mystery they found themselves solving was one of many layers that kept my attention throughout, and had me guessing at every corner. Just when I thought I might have some of it figured out, there was Holmes, proving me wrong, or just not quite right, and I loved that, loved the magic of Sherlock Holmes coming alive again in a modern setting, with feminist principles, and a host of disguises that would make the original Holmes envious thanks to eBay.
Because of how my health has been, it took me a while to work my way through the physical book, but I know for sure I would have utterly devoured this via audio! I’ll be reading book two as soon as I can.
Thanks for stopping by today. If you like the sound of Charlotte Holmes, have you also considered A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and Truly Devious series? Both feature badass teenage girls as protagonists who won’t take any nonsense, and are fully prepared to get their hands dirty to solve a mystery.