I remember seeing a lot of chat about this book when it came out earlier in the year, which seems to have died down a little; I’d like to give it a little bump because it is very entertaining indeed.
Aside from having a cleverly punnish title, A Study in Charlotte is really smart. Cavallaro creates a world in which Sherlock Holmes and Watson were actual, real people, and Watson’s accounts of their escapades were published (rather than written) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Holmes’ descendants are, like him, legendary both as detectives and drug users, while the Watsons are a more sensible and less attention-seeking group. The Charlotte of the title is a Holmes, Sherlock’s great-great-great-granddaughter, and the story comes courtesy of Jamie Watson, her counterpart in the other famous family. They find themselves at the same Connecticut private school but have little time to forge a functional friendship before they both find themselves implicated in a murder investigation.
I really liked the way Cavallaro worked with the Holmes/Watson relationship here; Charlotte has a lot of the destructive instincts shared by her famous predecessor, while Jamie is somewhat more balanced but still in possession of an unpredictable streak. The chemistry between the two characters is spiky and often confrontational, as well as funny. Charlotte is difficult and sometimes rude, all of which made me really love her quite a lot.
The story is clever too, with plenty of nods towards Conan Doyle’s works; the mysterious killer’s use of aspects of the stories creates a fun, if occasionally sick, guessing game for the reader, and I enjoyed playing detective myself to work out which of the Sherlock Holmes adventures were being referenced. The mystery is executed really well, keeping the reader guessing till the end. I liked how Cavallaro manages to pay affectionate tribute to Conan Doyle’s stories without descending into parody. Somehow the outlandish premise of teenagers assisting Scotland Yard with the solving of crimes doesn’t actually seem that crazy when you’re immersed in the book, which is pretty impressive.
I’m already looking forward to the next in the series, The Last of August, which is due for publication in February 2017. Obviously, I am less pleased that I have to wait so long. But if you haven’t read A Study in Charlotte already, I really recommend it; it’s fresh and fun, and pays a really loving tribute to a great set of classics.