I finished reading these two books recently, and since they shared a common named protagonist, it seemed like a no brainer to review them together. Both of these feature Charlotte Holmes, solver of mysteries, but in very different settings.
Book: A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
“The two of us, we’re the best kind of disaster. Apples and oranges. Well, more like apples and machetes.”
There are many iterations and retelling of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson out there these days. This one is a YA version, with Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson as the descendants of the famous pair. In this book, the original Holmes and Watson were real people who wrote the books to tell their own stories and Arthur Conan Doyle was their literary agent. Charlotte is a mini-Sherlock here – she’s scarily intelligent, snarky, rude and has a drug problem; she’s also a teenager in a boarding school in Connecticut. Jamie is on a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, the same boarding school as Charlotte. He’s the type to keep a low profile, and stay out of trouble. Based on everything he’s heard about the Holmes family, he feels it would be best to steer clear of Charlotte. Naturally that doesn’t happen. The two of them are thrown together by the murder of a fellow student, and all evidence points to them as the culprits, due to a fight they’d been involved in. They have to find out who the real killer is before they end up in jail for the crime. Because, naturally they can’t leave the detecting to the police!
This book is a lot darker than you’d expect. Charlotte has her devils to deal with – her family is dysfunctional, there’s the persistent drug use, plus sexual abuse in her background. Jamie is in turns fascinated and confused by her; yet he feels compelled to protect her. One quote in particular sums up his emotions: “I began wondering if there was some kind of Watsonian guide for the care and keeping of Holmeses.”
I ended up enjoying the book, and especially Ms Cavallaro’s descriptive phrases. This is book one in the series, so I’ll see if book two can keep up the pace.
Rating: 3 stars
Book: Murder on Cold Street by Sherry Thomas
This is book five in the Lady Sherlock series, so the premise is well established. Charlotte Holmes is the investigator, but has created the Sherlock Holmes persona as the unseen detective. She portrays herself as Sherlock’s sister – heaven forbid that a woman in the Victorian age go out and solve crimes! She has her own Watson sidekick – Mrs. Watson, who is every bit as resourceful and clever as Charlotte. This version of Charlotte has no drug addictions; however, she is rather fond of desserts and over the top clothing choices.
Inspector Treadles, who has become a friend during the times he required the help of Sherlock has begun to suspect the ruse Charlotte has created, and has been somewhat more reticent with her. Then he is discovered in a locked room with two dead men, and accused of the murder; mainly due to the fact the men were employees in the manufacturing company his wife has inherited. Charlotte and Lord Ingram, her long time friend and recent lover, are determined to discover the truth, since Treadles refuses to elaborate on what happened. Then his wife begs for help from the great Sherlock Holmes, which complicates the investigation as it’s clear she is not telling the whole truth. Her relationship with her husband had been strained lately, but she’s sure that Treadles would not commit murder.
As always with Sherry Thomas’ books, it’s clever and detailed and keeps you on your toes to try to follow all the clues that are unearthed. I also was happy to find more of the romance blossoming between Charlotte and Ingram. There had always been the repressed desires between them, which have been able to bubble up to the surface in the last couple of books. There’s more progress here, and it’s a pleasure to read of their developing closer relationship.
I don’t recommend reading this without having read the others in the series. There’s several other side characters with stories that carry throughout the books, and threads that weren’t addressed in this one. There’s also the shadowy Moriarty in the background, and I’m looking forward to see where that is going and how Sherry will take us on another incredible adventure.
Rating: 5 stars