By Tiffany Coelho
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Harper Collins/Katherine Tegen Books March 2016
Sherlock Holmes is a classic story taught in classrooms to young students who quickly become enthralled in the adventures of consulting detective Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. If you asked anyone today what first comes to their mind when you mention the name Sherlock Holmes, most would immediately reply with the name of Benedict Cumberbatch, the most recent incarnation of the famous classic detective. Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Holmes and the BBC show Sherlock brought the iconic mystery stories into modern culture for everyone to enjoy. While Benedict Cumberbatch may make the old detective relatable to a modern audience, there is a new version of Holmes that puts a new never before seen spin on Holmes.
Brittany Cavallaro’s debut novel, A Study in Charlotte, is the newest take on the adventures of Holmes and Watson. Cavallaro writes Holmes and Watson like you have never seen them before: Holmes is a teenage girl and Watson is a teenage boy. These two great- great- great- grandchildren of the real Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are not best friends like the original iconic pair. Jamie Watson is in his first year at Sherringford when he meets Charlotte Holmes. At first, they seem like they would rather be enemy’s way before they ever become friends. Then, a gruesome murder like one of the ones that happened in the Sherlock Holmes stories happens on their campus and they are both seen as the top suspects. They must come together to clear their names in a whirlwind investigation to find the true murderer.
Cavallaro’s novel stays within the Sherlockian tradition of writing the story from Watson’s perspective following the crazy antics of Sherlock Holmes. Jamie Watson is a writer after my own heart. Like his namesake, Jamie tries to write down everything that happens to him and Charlotte throughout their investigation. He is the perfect reincarnation of Watson because he balances out Charlotte’s sharp wit with his temper and good humor. Charlotte Holmes is the first female Holmes I have ever discovered. Holmes is usually depicted as somewhat of an unlikeable genius character and Charlotte is that and more. Her skills of deduction are on par with that of the original Holmes and she is a strategic sleuth in her own right.
When reading A Study in Charlotte, I was truly in a whirlwind murder mystery where my favorite characters had come alive. I could relate to both Jamie and Charlotte because they were closer to my age than any other depiction of Watson and Holmes thus far. Having these beloved characters in a boarding school setting offers an even more relatable aspect that no other Holmes reincarnation has ever offered. Cavallaro’s strength when depicting these old stories to a modern audience is her ability to relate the story to the modern experience of growing up. These characters struggle with their own identities, family drama, classes, authority figures, relationships (both romantic and platonic), and partying, all while trying to catch a murderer.
A Study in Charlotte constantly kept me guessing who the actual murder was, even though I am usually quite good at guessing those kinds of things. This whirlwind of a teen mystery novel will keep even the most cunning reader on their toes during every twist and turn Jamie and Charlotte face together. I bet you won’t guess who is behind the murder and the mystery, but pick up a copy and read for yourself.