Before I begin the review of A Study in Charlotte, let me disclose that I am a Holmesian in the true definition of the word: I have read the canon, studied Victorian literature (and, in particular, the advent of the detective novel genre) and am a thoughtful critic of many “post-Doyle” productions, literary or otherwise. That being said, I was more than pleased to find another great modern model of the beloved classics.
Brittany Cavallaro’s first young adult novel hits all the right notes, bringing us the full flavor of a Holmes/Watson adventure with new characters. The story is told from the perspective of John Watson’s descendant, a 21st-century high school student named Jamie Watson. As in the original, the reader’s introduction to (and understanding of) the enigmatic Charlotte Holmes is filtered through Jamie’s own experience. Their unique relationship has the added spark of attraction, although the friendship remains the key connection.
Having both been packed off to a boarding school in America, the teens soon find themselves embroiled in a mystery that threatens their lives. As the danger mounts, Charlotte uses her powers of observation and deduction inherited from her great-plus-grandfather, while Jamie strives to protect her as only a Watson can. The pace keeps you turning the pages, but Cavallaro’s depiction of the characters and their development brings you deep into the moment. A Study in Charlotte as a title is not only a reference to Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, it is what it states: an examination of an intriguing Holmes inheritor. It’s also a bloody good read.
Jennifer Bruer Kitchel is the librarian for a Pre-K through 8th level Catholic school.