Book Review: A Study in Charlotte
A Study in Charlotte
Katherine Tegan Books
The premise is this: The descendants, respectively, of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson meet at a Connecticut boarding school in the 21st century. Each has been aware of the other their whole life: the crime-solving adventures of their famous forbears were published (with varying degrees of veracity, depending on who you ask.) The Holmes family has always tended towards the odd and intense… tutoring their kids to dust for fingerprints while still in preschool, and the like. And the Watson family has, to varying degrees, been enmeshed in their lives. So now you have James “Jamie” Watson, starting at the posh Sherringford Academy on a rugby scholarship, the school that aloof, brilliant Charlotte Holmes attends.After they’ve formed a somewhat uneasy friendship tinged with hero-worship (him) and arrogance (her), crimes and murders start happening. Eerily similar to those chronicled in the legendary stories.
I admit it, I went into this book with a lot of skepticism. The more I think about it, though, I think it worked, really well. I zoomed through reading it, as is my inclination with a good vacation read. And I think I want to go back and reread the last third, to appreciate some of how the plot worked, with some nods to the original Doyle stories. The mystery took a few turns that genuinely surprised me, even when clearly built on the Doyle stories, in a way that characters understood and reacted to. I like the conceit of having the famous Holmes and Watson stories be part of a real legacy, that these two teenagers are dealing with. I like how the characteristics associated with the original characters morphed and played out, in some ways that were self-aware. The self-awareness struck the right balance, giving a nod to the source material without coming off as slavishly derivative or arch.
Plus, it was a solid, workable YA, with Jamie and Charlotte, and their friends coming through as authentic teenage characters, not just Sherlock and Watson stuffed into modern teenager bodies and tropes. I’m glad it’s the start of a series, and I’m looking forward to reading more.
If future outings in this series do anything with the one where Holmes and Watson deal with a were-orangutang, though, I’m not sure whether I’m going to be impressed, or ready to take back everything I just said above.
Oh, and it looks like BBC Sherlock is back on my screen tomorrow night, thanks to PBS. That’s a Holmes adaptation I’m definitely going to watch with a jaundiced eye, as per usual…Stephen Moffatt does a rotten job with women characters. Blah. Maybe someone should send him a copy of this book.