So, Holmes and Watson are not fictional characters. And Arthur Conan Doyle did not write about them. Actually, Sherlock solved the crimes, Watson wrote the books, and Arthur Conan Doyle was his literary agent.
Fast forward a century or so, and 16 year old Jamie Watson, great-etc. grandson of Dr John Watson leaves London on a rugby scholarship to a Connecticut boarding school, where he meets up with the great-etc. granddaughter of Sherlock, Charlotte Holmes. The two families have been linked since the beginning, but do not always get along. Charlotte has fascinated him for as long as he can remember. Once they meet, however, the imagined romance of their linked history is wiped away. She has no need of his presence.
But when a student is murdered in a copycat of a Holmes mystery, the two infamous cohorts are under suspicion. By everyone.
I was really looking forward to this one. Then I started reading it, and I became annoyed. Charlotte annoys me. Jamie annoys me. I realize it is a retelling of Sherlock, but the whole murder most foul at a ritzy boarding school with predictable characters is, well, predictable and annoying. (I need a thesaurus). And the plot is confusing.
And I still stick by that, but admit, that for all my irritation, the book is hard to put down.
Charlotte has inherited not only her genius for detection, but also a drug addiction and erratic temperament from her famous forefather. Two things don’t ring true for me. The original Sherlock was an ass, but also had a quick wit and charm. Charlotte has neither. She is not stupid, but comes across as rather spoiled and bratty, rather than charming.
And I find the way the drug addiction is handled in the story confusing; no one seems that concerned about it, it seems very much a “oh, she’s just like him.” I don’t think sending a teen to a posh boarding school is an approved way of dealing with a drug dependency.
Jamie is a bit boring as a narrator. Again, his personality does not always make sense. One minute, he has an uncontrollable temper, the next he is meek and mild, and doesn’t speak up for himself. He adopts the sidekick role with Charlotte, and allows her to call the shots, almost as if he has inherited the role, and can’t be bothered finding his own place.
The development of the friendship did, on the other hand, strike true to me. It happens over time, and seems genuine.
The plot is all over the place. Pacing was slow at times, and quite action-packed at others. The story has potential to be more, but I am not sure where the problem lies. A retelling needs to honour the original, while adding something new. And female lead aside, I am not sure this one accomplishes what it sets out to do.
I am really on the fence about this novel. It was hard to put down, Brittany Cavallari’s writing pulls you in, but I cannot honestly say it is enjoyable.
There is discussion of sexual violence, although no description of it. Drug use is, again, discussed but not described in detail. Any teen can read this book, but I am not sure whether it is better to be a Sherlock fan, or to not know the original to appreciate the story.
I think that this is a novel that the reader will either love or hate. It just didn’t do it for me.
A Study in Charlotte was published March 1st 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books.