A review of A Study In Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Here is your spoiler alert.

If you haven’t read it, go read it and then come back.

You can buy the book here!

I don’t want whinging that I ruined it for you. I like critical looks into books, and I want an open discussion. Feel free to leave a comment and tell me if you agree with me or not, but tell me why! Also, this article is going to talk about plot elements that are definitely for a mature audience. If you do not feel you can approach the the subject of rape in context to this book:

read no further.

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I liked this one. LIKED. Not loved. Liked.

I give it a good solid 7 / 10.

Descendants of THEE Sherlock and Holmes, Charlotte Holmes and James Watson, are thrust together at boarding school by ‘distant’ family pulling the strings. Some dude named “Dobson” is murdered, and rumour has it that the crime was committed by Holmes (whom Dobson raped) and/or Watson (who started a fight with Dobson who joked about said rape).

What I liked:

Sherlock Holmes is a fun pop culture icon who is resuscitated every so often in movie / t.v. / book adaptations. In this resuscitation Holmes is a modern, takes-no-poopoo gal. Paying homage to THEE Sherlock, the author delicately weaves ideas from original stories into the plot. I confess, I have not read the entirety of the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; however, A Study In Charlotte is easy to follow along  with and connect to the characters regardless. In some places, the dialogue is witty and the wordage is very well written. My favourite wordage is on page 67, “I had the sinking feeling that Holmes did, but she sat on her suspicions with the smug languor of a cat on a pillow.” I, also, very much enjoyed the idea that for every Watson, there is a Holmes – this idea coming out when Daddy Watson bequeaths the How-To-Take-Care-Of-A-Holmes bible to Jamie.

But for all the things that I did like, there are a few… issues… to discuss with A Study In Charlotte.

I’m still not sold on the idea of THIS “Sherlock Holmes” character – Charlotte. Yes, there are child prodigies, but, prodigies usually are good at just their one thing and later in their lives add to that répertoire. The original Sherlock had time to steep with wiggle room for failure and, for that, I would not call him a child prodigy. For Sherlock, the ability to be a renaissance man came with the factor of TIME (reasonably deducted from his descriptions and other adaptation portrayals). On the other hand, for Charlotte, the believability that she is a renaissance woman is lost on me with her limited number of years, 17, and the setting of High School, even as “elite” as it is depicted. The idea that she is a child prodigy is lacking as well, considering she has a wide range of many talents.

And because the author was trying to shove many “talents” in to the Charlotte box there were times that the writing mechanics left the flow feeling chunky. On page 124, Watson’s inner monologue tells the reader, “Holmes, I knew, used the tunnel to practice her fencing.” Besides the fact that it is an elite boarding school in Connecticut and I would assume that they have a gym for that, Watson stating this now, seems, off. The only other time that her talent of fencing is talked about is on page 86, “”All the same. You really should take up boxing, or fencing-” “Fencing? What century are you from?” “-or solving crimes.”” The idea that she fences is an unnecessary observation anyway, it adds no plot development, it takes away from her as a believable character. Why does it need too be shown that she is a fencer? Is there going to be a duel? (No, there wasn’t.)

Disjointed, is the term I would use for the writing.

My note at the end of chapter one reads, “Chunky first chapter, all over the place re:narration.” Charlotte is introduced through Watson as if she is a unicorn, a mythical creature that his child self wanted to go on adventures with, but then that idea is shied away from because his mother poo-poos his dream. But suddenly teenaged Watson is protecting the honor of some one he has barely met or kept track of, I can’t really tell.

The escalation between Watson and his Rugby Teammate, Dobson, is poorly executed – I did not understand the “fight” at all. It is easy to imagine, this idea of nonconsentual sex in a prep school setting, but the way in which it was introduced was … light… and fluffy. “I cracked the nut,” yes, can be bro banter but my mind didn’t necessarily equate that quote with sex, or even rape. Derogatory, yes, but could also allude to “dating” and making the other guys jealous, being raunchy. Then Watson said, Liar, and it was confusing (Why was Dobson a liar now?  Liar to what? To dating her? To having sex with her? Was this incident in the news? Was there a lawsuit the school gossips about? Did his emotions just bubble because it was condescending and gross?).

Considering the word “fuck” is slung around, I don’t know why the incident was just ‘alluded to’. For example, it could have been written, “I cracked the nut, last year, at the party…” Then it would be a little more clear as to why we should hate him so much in the first chapter with out a ton of backstory and with out Charlotte having to spell it out as actually being non-consensual later. The escalation from a (confusing) derogatory sneer to a fist fight left me scratching my head and left me thinking that, in this case, ‘rape’ was used as a plot device – a place to just arbitrarily enter the story -rather than build character nuance.

But, I will say this! For all the chunky writing and weird situations (above), it gets better and moves faster – more fluid, at the end of the novel. As you can see – my nitpicks stop half way though! The story line is woven together nicely and I enjoyed reading this one. I will read the second one!

If you still haven’t read the book, buy it here!

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How I “work”

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