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Book Review – A Study in Charlotte

November 2, 2016


What I’m Reading:
 A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Published By: Katherine Tegen Books, 2016

A Study in Charlotte is a modern, YA novel that features Jamie Watson, rugby player and descendant of that Dr. Watson meeting up with anti-social, drug using Charlotte Holmes at a prestigious New England boarding school. At first, Jamie doesn’t know how to approach Charlotte although he desperately wants to. Luckily for them the campus problem is found murdered and Holmes and Watson are the two primary suspects.
The killer has set the murder up to be reminiscent of one of Holmes and Watson’s famous cases – The Adventure of the Speckled Band. As the current day Holmes and Watson continue to investigate the murder they have to contend with fear from the other students, distrust and suspicion from the police, family difficulties on both sides, and worst of all, their own uncertain relationship, all while the murderer continues to plant clues taken straight from Dr. Watson’s memoirs.

I ended up rating this book a 3/5 on Goodreads. It just didn’t quite work for me. I liked the premise, but I felt like the author tried to jump through a few too many hoops to make things work out the way she wanted them to.

First – Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes were real men. Dr. Watson wrote down his reminiscences of the cases he worked on with his friend. But, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle also exists in this universe as either the publisher or the collator of the memoirs, I didn’t quite get that part.
Second – Charlotte is a little too much exactly like her forebearer. She is anti-social, blisteringly intelligent, a drug user, yet still a respected consultant for Scotland Yard. As a teenager. Jamie, on the other hand, is pretty much just a dude. With anger issues. That’s… it. He doesn’t have any sort of previous relationship with the Holmes family or special skills. He’s just a guy who has always wanted to meet Charlotte because she’s the only Holmes close to his age.
I get that Jamie is supposed to be the audience cipher, but it doesn’t work very well set next to Charlotte. At least, not for me.
Third – I know too much about actual police procedure, so none of the parts with the investigating detective worked for me. And yes, I read mysteries all the time, so I know how actual procedure gets bent like a pretzel for the sake of the plot, but again, this book tried a little too hard to have it both ways. Jamie and Charlotte get special treatment, but they also have a by-the-book detective to deal with.

It’s tempting to hand-wave all my problems with the book by saying, “oh it’s YA, so none of that matters.” But I’ve read YA that does all of this sort of thing in a way that makes me happy, so that just doesn’t work. I don’t think this is a bad book, it just wasn’t a good book for me.
If you did like it, then you’re in luck! The sequel, The Last of August, comes out next year.

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