Thursday, October 31, 2019

Teen/YA Review: A Study in Charlotte

Happy Halloween! One of my favorite reads this month for the RIP XIV Challenge was A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallero, a fun, clever, modern take on the Sherlock Holmes mysteries for teens and young adults (and grown-ups, like me!).

Charlotte Holmes and James Watson are descended from that Holmes and Watson (who, in this series, were real people). They are both teens at the same boarding school in Connecticut. Their families have remained entangled throughout the generations, but when Charlotte and Jamie encounter each other at school, it is their first time meeting. Charlotte is very much like her famous ancestor: brilliant, introverted, and often obsessive. She is a loner at school, though she runs an illicit (and popular) poker game one night a week. Most of the time, though, she works in her private lab, set up as an "independent study" project, and learns all she can about ... well, everything. She relaxes by practicing fencing in secret. James (who most people call Jamie, even though he prefers James) is not thrilled to be at this boarding school in Connecticut, but he's trying to make the best of it. He'd rather be at his old school in England and living with his mom, but he won a rugby scholarship here. It's also just an hour away from his father (of the Watson line), with whom he hasn't spent much time in many years. Charlotte and James meet and then are quickly thrown together when one of their classmates is murdered. He was a pushy misogynist who wronged Charlotte, and James got in a fight with him the day before he was killed. That makes them both potential suspects. The two of them begin investigating the case together to clear their names, which becomes even more urgent when another classmate is seriously injured. As they get to know each other and start to track down clues, the situation on campus gets more and more dangerous. They must figure out who the killer is before more kids get hurt or killed.

This original, smart novel works on several levels: as an intricate mystery with plenty of red herrings, as a teen drama set in a boarding school, and as a modern take on the intriguing Holmes-Watson relationship. The author ingeniously gives Charlotte and James similar characteristics to their famous ancestors, with Watson put in the familiar role of caring for and protecting Holmes when she becomes so fixated on the case that she forgets to take care of herself. The crime itself is just like a classic Sherlock Holmes mystery: intricate, twisty, and almost impossible to figure out! I kept developing and discarding various theories, and the final resolution took me by surprise. I especially enjoyed listening to this inventive and gripping mystery on audio, with both female and male narrators telling the story from Charlotte's and James' points of view. With plenty of suspense, wit, and the modern teen Holmes-Watson relationship, this novel was just a lot of fun. I can't wait to read the rest of the series! (It looks like there are four books so far.)

352 pages, Katharine Tegen Books

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Listen to a sample of the wonderful audio book, from chapter 1 (James' perspective), or download the audio from Audible.

You can also download all four novels in this series as e-books.

You can purchase A Study in Charlotte from an independent bookstore, either locally or online, here:
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Or you can order A Study in Charlotte from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.


  1. I like the idea of super smart kids taking on the Holmes/Watson roles. What a fun twist.

    1. It IS fun, Helen! I rarely read series, but I want to read more of these.