I think I’d seen A Study in Scarlet Women (2016) by Sherry Thomas both in Cannonball reviews and on NPR’s List of Best Books of 2016. This book is something of a retelling of Sherlock Holmes, except that the famous detective is actually Charlotte Holmes. She helps to solve crimes using an old friend, Lord Ashburton, as an intermediary to bring information to and from Inspector Treadles. Full disclosure: I have never read the original Sherlock Holmes. It is on my Kindle because I found it for free one day, but I haven’t gotten around to it. All of my knowledge of Holmes comes from Benedict Cumberbatch. On that note, I really enjoyed this book. It was clever and fun to read.
This book had me from the very beginning. When romance novels, especially historical romance novels, are often centered around the virginity of the heroine, Charlotte Holmes simply takes matters into her own hands. Charlotte’s mother is pressuring her to get married, and Charlotte is hampered by her lack of freedom. So, at the beginning of the book, she does the sensible thing and sets herself up to be caught with a man, “ruining” herself in the eyes of society. This man is not the hero and they do not end up getting married. Like Benedict Cumberbatch, Charlotte is more analytical than emotional, and it serves her well in some ways. It was also incredibly refreshing to see a woman just not give a damn when it came to society’s expectations of her. I was jealous of her strength.
Unfortunately, ruining herself didn’t solve all of her problems. Charlotte ends up leaving home and striking out on her own–despite how difficult it was for women at this time. Eventually, she runs into an ostentatious former stage star and widow, Mrs. Watson, who becomes something of a partner. Together, they try to figure out the recent murders of three high profile members of society.
There were many mysteries, large and small, throughout this book–that I assume is similar to how the Sherlock Holmes book is written. Some of them are not quite plausible if you think too much about them, but they are fun reading. I really enjoyed the clever, original writing. I also loved the understated and hopeless romance between Charlotte and Ingram. Their relationship is more meaningful because they can’t be together. I will definitely be reading the second book in this series.
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