A Study in Charlotte was an interesting mystery novel that plays on the Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet. While I honestly haven’t read that, I have to say, this book was written pretty well – it was like a young adult recreation of that, and it was pulled off pretty darn well. It’s not one of those books that you can read while half asleep (as I’ve learned) because it takes quite a bit of paying attention in order to absorb all the important details regarding the mystery in this book (and believe me, it’s filled with them). So I had to go back and re-read several parts more than once, but that’s okay, because the book was really enjoyable.
James Watson (yes, a descendant of that Watson) is moved from his comfortable London home that he shares with his mother, and sent to live in a boarding school in the states on a rugby scholarship. His father, whom he hasn’t spoken to in years, lives nearby, but other than that, he’s pretty much friendless and isolated. When he comes across Charlotte Holmes (again, yes, a descendant of that Holmes), he feels like perhaps the two of them should be friends, considering that hey, they’re both at this boarding school far away from home, and well, they’re Watson and Holmes – they pretty much have to be friends, right?
As Watson tries to gain her friendship (not very easy, that’s for sure), he comes to see that she really isn’t like any other girl he has met – and she has incredible intelligence and is a fantastic detective. So, when a student is murdered on campus, and Watson and Holmes are blamed (the student in question had gotten into a fight with Watson earlier, and had tormented Holmes for a very long time), they know they have to partner up in order to clear their names and solve the mystery. As more crimes start to add up, they realize that they’re dealing with something series – and they race against the clock to discover the real murderer.
The first thing I liked about this book is that it is told from James Watson’s point of view – which is a welcome treat, considering most YA books are told from a female’s perspective these days. It was such a nice change – James was such a great character – very easy to relate to and I enjoyed reading how he told the story. While Charlotte Holmes had a bit of a personality that might have to grow on you, I absolutely loved her. She was real. She had problems – family problems, friend problems, and even a drug problem, but she wasn’t some fake, quickly thrown together character. She was interesting and deep, and I loved how the author wrote her.
I also loved how there were references to Sherlock Holmes mysteries throughout the entire book – each crime committed had one, and that was another nice touch that was carefully added.
Seriously, everything about this book is just impressive. Plus the ending brings the entire book together perfectly…and adds a little bow on top.
Since my husband has recently got me hooked on the Sherlock TV series, I knew I would enjoy this book – and I definitely wasn’t disappointed. It was the perfect YA mystery, and it was such a clever, unique twist on the Sherlock Holmes novels.
I really can’t wait for the next book in this new trilogy!
Note: I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Brittany Cavallaro is a poet, fiction writer, and old school Sherlockian. She is the author of the poetry collection Girl-King (University of Akron) and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She earned her BA in literature from Middlebury College and her MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she’s a PhD candidate in English literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she teaches creative writing, detective fiction, and lots of other things. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, cat, and collection of deerstalker caps. Find her at her website, brittanycavallaro.com, or on Twitter @skippingstones.