I like the story and the characters in A Study in Charlotte. What does irritate me a little bit is how in this version of the Conan Doyle universe, the Watson and Holmes families are expected to keep their famous characteristics and relationships through each generation. Jamie Watson can’t wait to meet his Holmes counterpart Charlotte, because he hopes they will develop a close relationship like their ancestors Sherlock and John. When you try to break away from that established characterization, things will go horribly wrong as at a positive Holmes-Moriarty (yep, that family is also a part of this) connection in the recent past proves.
Jamie Watson has a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, an expensive Connecticut boarding school, even though he’s not a great rugby player. He’s estranged from his father, and he misses his former home in London. Charlotte is also at Sherringford, and is not close to most of her family either. The one exception seems to be her brother Milo. Naturally Jamie and Charlotte connect, but the relationship is difficult. They only bond when a student is killed, and Watson and Holmes are framed for it, as well as a few later incidents. The need to solve the case and absolve themselves is what really forces the pair together, and as it turns out, they do work well as a team.
The crimes are pretty direct copies of classic Holmes-Watson stories and are acknowledged as such, but the modern characters are a little more real. Charlotte, like her famous several times great-grandfather, is brilliant but anti-social and a sometimes drug user. These things have real, natural consequences in this version of the world, which makes the character a little more realistic.
While it’s fun to watch Jamie and Charlotte together, and they are good for each other in a lot of ways, the side characters including Jamie’s father and Charlotte’s brother Milo are some of the best bits of the story. Milo who is possibly equally brilliant and competitive with Charlotte, a few years older, and involved in secret powerful goings on is clearly a slightly updated analogue for the original elder Holmes but with a touch more humanity to him. Jamie’s father, who apparently cheated on his mother before they divorced and is now married to his mistress Abbie, keeps notes and records on the players, Homes, Watson, and Moriarty. Eventually, he and Jamie maybe bond a little over Jamie’s need for information about how to deal with Charlotte as well as other people involved including one August Moriarty.
While Sherlock Holmes re-imaginings have been popular for a while, I like how this one is much more open about the relationship to the original stories and characters, but still updates enough to make things new and interesting. I just hope the sequel maintains the energy and fun.