When Victoria Aveyard’s War Storm book tour was in my area, I was lucky enough to attend, and Brittany Cavallaro was another author who shared a stage with Aveyard. I got to hear Cavallaro talk about her books and writing process and found her to be a really great speaker, but I hadn’t read any of her books prior to the event. I wanted to remedy that and gave A Study in Charlotte a read.
A Study in Charlotte uses Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock novels as the jumping off point, imagining that Holmes was a real man and had descendants who would carry on his name and detective abilities. Embarrassingly enough for an English teacher and an avid reader, I’ve only read one Sherlock Holmes novel: The Hound of the Baskervilles. I’ve also seen the early 2000s films starring Robert Downey Jr., and Jude Law. Even though I may not be a Sherlockian expert, the atmosphere and intellect of A Study in Charlotte felt spot on.
In this book, James Watson – a descendant of John Watson – finds himself at a boarding school in Connecticut near his estranged father. Charlotte Holmes – the great-great-great-granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes – also attends the boarding school. Even though Charlotte is a teenager, she’s just as neurotic as Sherlock. She’s also a great detective, as she’s been trained since she was a child. Not long after James comes to school, a classmate that both he and Charlotte despise winds up dead. All the evidence points to Charlotte and Jamie because the killer has recreated scenes from the original Sherlock stories. Holmes and Watson have to prove they’re innocent and find the true killer before anyone else gets hurt.
I was really impressed by this book. The writing was dark and formal, making it feel very different than the usual YA books I read. Charlotte even has Sherlock’s drug habit, which I thought was pretty risky for the author to include in YA. The writing style was refreshing – despite feeling old-fashioned – and such a good match to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work. Since the book was a mystery, it was also suspenseful and it was fun to make predictions as I read.
“We’re not on who, or why, Watson, we’re still working out how. You can’t theorize in advance of facts, or you’ll waste everyone’s time.”
Even though I assume the rest of the books in the series will be formulaic (like most mystery series are), I feel like it’s worth it to continue reading this series. Charlotte and Jamie are complex characters with a complex relationship. They understand each other and need one another’s friendship, but they are also just teenagers who have a lot of family pressure on them.
I wanted the two of us to be complicated together, to be difficult and engrossing and blindingly brilliant.
There is room for Charlotte and Jamie to grow personally and I appreciate the diligent work Cavallaro has put into crafting this novel.