Amanda Reads: A Study in Charlotte

A genderbent Sherlock Holmes where Holmes is a teenage girl and Watson a teenage boy? Count me in! This week, I’m here to talk about Brittany Cavallaro’s A Study in Charlotte, the first installment in the Charlotte Holmes series.

First off, I listened to this one on audio, and I highly recommend it. The performance is excellent and the book is plot-based enough to make a great audiobook listen. Plus, right now it’s available on Hoopla for your free library listening pleasure.

A Study in CharlotteI’ve been in an off-again, on-again reading slump where I’ll rip through a book or two and then not be able to find anything that grabs me. This one definitely grabbed me!

The premise is that the main character, James (Jamie) Watson, is a descendant of the famous Dr. Watson who wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories. In this universe, we take for granted that John Watson and Sherlock Holmes were real people, and their legacies live on in their respective families. Watsons have a tendency to be charmed and enthralled by Holmses, while Holmses are trained in the arts of deduction from an early age.  And let’s not forget the Moriarty family, because what good Sherlock Holmes remake would?

Jamie grew up fantasizing about having Sherlock and Watson type adventures with his age equivalent Holmes, Charlotte. But when he’s sent to an American boarding school on a rugby scholarship, he meets the real thing… and she is entirely different from what he expected (for starters, she isn’t blonde like he’d pictured). Naturally, a murder takes place and it’s up to Holmes and Watson to figure out whodunnit–oh, and they’re being framed for the murder while they’re at it! Add in teenage hormones and you’ve got an excellent twist to the original story, because naturally what Jamie feels for Charlotte gets a little bit complicated.

I won’t say much more plot wise because you’ll spoil any good mystery that way. It was certainly interesting to see the Holmes character translated into teenage girl form. Cavallaro chose to have her retain many of the unlikeable traits we see in Sherlock, which goes against that irritating trend where readers often expect female main characters to be likeable. I did like Charlotte, in the way one likes Sherlock Holmes, and I was pleased to see the author not back down from the challenge of a potentially unlikeable female version of Holmes. It’s important that we put stories out there where women (and young women) are allowed to be themselves–their complicated, sometimes unlikeable selves.

Also I fully admit to having a crush on our narrator, Jamie. So, there’s that.

I highly, highly recommend this book. It was a blast to read. I tore through it in about a day and eagerly awaited my turn in the hold queue at the library so I could get my hands (er, ears) on the second installment, The Last of August.

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