I recently finished reading A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro. It is the first in the Charlotte Holmes Mysteries, and is a combination of a retelling and an alternate universe contemporary/mystery for young adults.
The story takes place at Sherringford Hall, a boarding school in Connecticut, and stars James “Jamie” Watson and Charlotte Holmes, descendents of the original Dr. John Watson and Sherlock Holmes. Charlotte belongs to the illustrious Holmes family, who has been training their children in the arts of deduction since the time of their infamous forebear. Jamie is the product of a broken home, attends Sherringford on a rugby scholarship, and hasn’t seen his father in several years — until a bully, Lee Dobson, who lives in the same dorm as him is killed shortly after an altercation between the two boys over Charlotte.
Of course, Charlotte and Jamie are implicated in the murder, and spend the remainder of the novel solving the case to clear their names.
Things get more complicated when it is discovered that the murderer is emulating the old Sherlock Holmes mysteries (written by Jamie’s great-great-great-grandfather, the original Dr. Watson), and it all gets worse when more violent crimes in the style of Sherlock Holmes stories crop up around campus. Everyone is a suspect and the only people Jamie and Charlotte can trust are each other. (Seriously, they go from Charlotte hating Jamie to them describing one another as ‘best friends’ in record time.)
The characters were a little bit two-dimensional, in that Jamie is very singularly focused on Charlotte, and Charlotte herself was viewed through Jamie’s rose coloured glasses and therefore exceptionally Mary-Sue-ish. I don’t really buy the concept of Charlotte consuming all of Jamie’s thoughts so thoroughly within such a short period of time that he doesn’t even think of his own interests — rugby, for instance, is barely mentioned, despite being the thing Jamie allegedly has a scholarship for. In addition to these writing flaws, Cavallaro doesn’t write Jamie like a teenage boy. Even for a Brit, he’s too prim and proper (in my opinion).
Personally, I found the novel fun, but super cheesy. There was an unnecessary romance that built between Jamie and Charlotte for no real reason other than they’re a male and a female with heteronormative sexual preferences, and all of the secondary characters may as well have not been there for all that they were interacted with past the first fifty pages.
There was a really weird plot twist that didn’t have much to do with anything near the end, which I won’t give away in case there are any other fans of YA soft lit out there.
Cavallaro has written two more Charlotte Holmes Mysteries, The Last of August and A Case for Jamie, the last of which was released just last week. I personally rated A Study in Charlotte a 3.5 out of 5 stars on GoodReads, and I do plan on picking up the other two books at some point in the near future.