Thursday, September 8, 2016

REVIEW | A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Publication Year: 2016
Genre: Mystery, YA
Series: Charlotte Holmes (#1)
Awards: NA
Format: Hardback from Library
Narrator: NA

WHY?: I'm a Sherlock Holmes fan in a really odd way.  I have only read maybe two of the original stories - pretty recently  - and I found them rather dull.  I found them dull because I have consumed so much other ancillary Sherlock Holmes storytelling that by the time I got to the originals they felt derivative - Ha!  I have watched most if not all of the TV adaptations more than once, all the movies and I've read dozens of books and short stories based on the Sherlock Holmes mythos.  I am a Sherlock Holmes fan fiction junkie. I am a little ashamed of this but not so much that when I heard about this book I didn't immediately say to myself "I'm gonna read the crap out of that."  
“I was maybe the only person to ever have his imaginary friend made real.”

SYNOPSIS:  Jamie Watson is shocked and unhappy to find that he has secured a Rugby scholarship at a posh boarding school in Connecticut.  Shocked because he's not that great at Rugby, unhappy because it means he'll have to move across the ocean from his London home.  The one bright spot is that one of the other students at his new school happens to be Charlotte Holmes.  Jamie and Charlotte are descendants of that Holmes and Watson and Jamie has always cherished a fantasy of meeting Charlotte who has already made a name for herself by solving various crimes.  Jamie wonders if they might connect like their famous ancestors.  They do and it's more wonderful and terrible than Jamie ever imagined especially since their first case is to save themselves from a murder charge.

“When I saw a story about a stolen painting on the front page of the newaspaper, I told my mother that Charlotte Holmes and I were going to solve the case. My mother cut me off saying, "Jamie, if you try to do anything like that before you turn eighteen, I will sell every last one of your books in the night, starting with your autographed Neil Gaiman.” 

This is a book that met all my expectations which is not something I get to say too often! I love when books with a great premise are matched with equally great writing and storytelling.  Cavallaro did a fantastic job writing a modern-day YA version of a Sherlock Holmes story and managed to capture that elusive quality of the original stories - light but not without substance.  

She starts with two great characters.  Jamie is a great narrator who is pretty immediately likeable.  He's down to earth, quick-witted and extremely funny.  He's perhaps a tad to emo and thoughtful about his feelings than I imagine would be the case for an average teenage boy but otherwise he's totally believable as a slightly geeky, mostly cool guy.  

Charlotte is just as neurotic and complicated as her famous ancestor.  She has a drug problem, her relationship with her family is complex, she mostly doesn't know how to interact with other people but those that get past the prickly demeanor, end up mostly liking her and are loyal. She returns that loyalty fiercely.  And she is of course brilliant and equally as close-mouthed about her plans and theories as the original Holmes.  Few can keep up with her but thankfully, Jamie enjoys trying.

Cavallaro creates some really strong and believable chemistry between the partners which mirrors John and Sherlock's but at the same time has it's own flair.  Setting the story at a boarding school was a stroke of genius because a) stories at boarding schools are always fascinating to me and b) it allowed Holmes and Watson to "live together" without living together. Basically, it was an excellent facsimile of 221B Baker Street. 
“We weren't Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. I was ok with that, I thought. We had things they didn't, too. Like electricity, and refrigerators. And Mario Kart.” 
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MYSTERY, you say?  It's fine.  I liked that this first case has their own heads on the chopping block.  It was a good way of throwing them together and solidifying their alliance.  It perhaps did not have the flair of Conan-Doyle's mysteries but I was content enough and happily occupied by the witty banter and the character development.  The book is really delightfully funny and has enough teenage angst to warm YA-loving hearts.

FINAL VERDICT:  A delightfully, entertaining entry into the Holmes and Watson mythos that did not disappoint.  I can't wait for book two!  4 out of 5 stars.

Other Opinions Are Available: Cuddlebuggery | Storybook Slayers

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