Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

When Jamie Watson is offered a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, he isn't all that jazzed. It's not even like he's that great of a rugby player, it's just a way for him to work out his anger and aggression on the field rather than the alternative. Plus, Sherringford is a whole continent away from his mother and sister, and it's just around the figurative corner from the father he barely speaks to. 

But Sherringford does have one highlight: Charlotte Holmes. As the descendants of the historic best friends and investigators, Jamie feels certain that he and Charlotte are supposed to be friends. But just as he imagines kindling that relationship, the two are thrown together by fate.

A fellow hall mate of Jamie's is murdered in his bed, the scene eerily reminiscent of one of the classic Holmes cases. Unfortunately, Jamie was last seen fighting the boy and Charlotte's final words to him were essentially a promise of murder. Now the two teens find themselves forced to work together in order to clear their names. And as their friendship does inevitably blossom, the killer seems more determined than ever to see the two framed for murder!

A Study in Charlotte is cute and, in my opinion as an ho hum fan of Doyle's work (meaning, I can't be relied on to do an in depth examination of how true Brittany Cavallero has been to the source material), I thought it was very much in the spirit of - and honoring - Doyle's creation.

As characters, I loved Jamie. He has anger issues, abandonment issues, and is more than a little obsessed with Charlotte. It runs in the family apparently - his own father has long followed in classic Watson behavior by studying and obsessing over the Holmeses as well.

On the flip side, something about Charlotte felt a little too forced for me. She's quirky, which I definitely appreciated, and harbors quite a bit of understandable animosity towards her family. Plus, we find out that she does indeed have very good reason to want the dead boy gone. Other aspects of her personality, though, didn't quite mesh for me. In particular where it pertains to how the relationship with Jamie builds.

There were times in the narrative where both characters lost it. Really lost it! With one another. And that happens with friends, certainly, but I think the story needed more fleshing out of their relationship. More scaffolding, so to speak, for a relationship that grows out of necessity and inevitability. And the disruptions felt unprompted (barring one case where we find out it actually is). It didn't feel as though the relationship between the characters was growing as organically as it should have for a smooth story.

Then there's the mystery itself. There were some leaps that went maybe a bit too far. And maybe, while still in that spirit of Doyle's work, would have benefitted from just a bit more couching in present reality. Not the actual whodunit part, but some of the dunits as the book progressed.

This last complaint, though, is almost moot. The killer is following Holmes cases. I did absolutely love the fact that the premise here is that Holmes and Watson were very real. Both Jamie and Charlotte grow up being force fed Watson's tales. There's family history, there's an acceptance that these kids - because of who they are - can and will do things other kids won't. It's a fabulous premise, to be honest.

So I'm a bit of two minds about A Study in Charlotte. I want to love these characters enough to follow their continued story (The Last of August is due out in February). And while I do like them and am curious enough to move onto book 2, I'm not entirely committed to them just yet.

Rating: 3.5/5

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