Friday, January 8, 2016

A Study in Charlotte (a book review)

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Expected publication: March 1st, 2016
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 336

The last thing sixteen-year-old Jamie Watson–writer and great-great-grandson of the John Watson–wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s enigmatic, fiercely independent great-great-granddaughter, who’s inherited not just his genius but also his vices, volatile temperament, and expertly hidden vulnerability. Charlotte has been the object of his fascination for as long as he can remember–but from the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else.

Then a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Holmes stories, and Jamie and Charlotte become the prime suspects. Convinced they’re being framed, they must race against the police to conduct their own investigation. As danger mounts, it becomes clear that nowhere is safe and the only people they can trust are each other.

Equal parts tender, thrilling, and hilarious, A Study in Charlotte is the first in a trilogy brimming with wit and edge-of-the-seat suspense.


I LOVE retellings, and Sherlock Holmes has been a recent obsession of mine over the past couple years. So naturally the super clever title and offbeat cover caused me to snatch this ARC up off the shelf like the greedy little bookworm that I am.

Overall, I thought the story was very good. It took me maybe forty, fifty pages to really get into it, but after that I didn't feel like the action lagged at all. Even if they weren't running through the streets to chase someone down, I was completely entertained.

I loved Charlotte's character, too. She felt like a descendant of Sherlock Holmes, down to her speech pattern, but she wasn't a copycat. She had a drug addiction, just like Sherlock, and played the violin beautifully. But she was also more emotional, I think. She got more attached to people, even though she viewed it as a "weakness," but it just made her more endearing. I found myself actually cringing every time I thought she was in danger.

This book was a mystery that didn't cut any corners and, though it was somewhat confusing, made total sense once you got to the big reveal. Well . . . I had to take a minute and reread once or twice to make sure it completely sank in, but then it made sense. It was as confusing as you'd expect a Sherlock Holmes story to be. I didn't feel like the author cheated me out of something by tossing me all these red herrings.

The only parts of the story that didn't sit right with me were 1. Jamie's character, 2. A side plot that felt thrown in, and 3. The matter of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Let me expand on these.

Jamie was bland! I didn't dislike him, per se, but . . . if it hadn't been for Charlotte, I wouldn't have really been able to root for him, either. He didn't have much of a personality, it was like his entire character depended on his relationship with Charlotte. I usually have a really hard time when I can't connect with the main character in some way, but the story mostly made up for it.

That side plot . . . *headdesks repeatedly* What even?! I was SO CONFUSED when I realized what had happened, and even then it took me several pages to recover from it. It didn't have anything to do with the main story at all! It felt like one of those bombs an author drops during NaNoWriMo just for the sake of bumping up her word count by a couple thousand words, and then forgot to edit out when sending the book in for publication. (For those of you who have read the book, I hope you know what side plot I'm talking about, because I'm dying to talk about it with someone. Was it just me and I totally missed something about it, or did anyone else agree?)

Apparently Cait and I had the same thoughts with this one, but toward the beginning of the book, you find out that the Sherlock Holmes stories are true and that Holmes and Watson were real people. So far so good, right? But then they go on to mention that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was still the one who wrote the books, when during every other part of the story it would seem like John Watson did . . . huh??

And they NEVER EXPLAIN how this makes sense. Not a huge deal, but still something I thought should've been worked out more.

So to sum it up, it's a fun read, especially great for a gray day when you're stuck inside with a blanket and a book. But definitely read it for the plot and not so much the characters, since the only one I really liked was Charlotte.

Have you read A Study in Charlotte? What did you think? And what are your favorite retellings, Sherlock Holmes or otherwise? Leave a comment!


Cait @ Paper Fury said...

I'm soo glad I wasn't the only one weirded out by putting Doyle into the world as well. Like, why not just leave him out and have Watson be the writer!??!? ARGH. TOO CONFUSING FOR MY WEE BRAIN. *collapses* I'm glad you mostly liked this one though!! I wish I'd been more into it, *sigh* But I guess I wanted something a bit different from what I got. And I 100% agree that Jamie was just...bland. Why are the retellings never narrated by Sherlock? I NEED A SHERLOCK NARRATOR SO BAD.

Boquinha said...

Great review! I enjoy reading these even if I haven't read the book myself (yet?). Thanks!

The Magic Violinist said...

@Cait Oh no, you definitely weren't the only one. It wasn't even necessary to make it unique! It seriously just seemed like something he'd considered doing in an early draft and forgot to get rid of during edits.

I did! It was a good story, at least, and I tend to rate things pretty generously anyways. xD I NEED MORE SHERLOCK NARRATORS, TO.

@Boquinha Thanks! :) I'd recommend it since you like Sherlock stories, too, but it wouldn't be very high on my list.