Monday, December 12, 2016

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

This is my metric for success as a reading teacher: When a student checks out a book from our classroom library, reads it in one night, returns the next day to ask if the next book in the series has been published, and seems legitimately crushed when he finds out the answer is no. Such was the case with Brittany Cavallaro’s A Study in Charlotte, Book One in the Charlotte Holmes series.

Some of you may be feeling your Sherlock sense tingling, and rightfully so. A Study in Charlotte is narrated by one James Watson, a teenager with a complicated past now attending boarding school in contemporary America. And, yes, young Jamie is related to THAT Watson.

What other teenager with a mysterious past also happens to attend this boarding school? Why, one Charlotte Holmes. The two teens embody many of the traits of their more famous forebears, for good and for ill. When a classmate is found murdered, the case becomes more complex than the local constabulary can handle, so who steps in? (Hint: The answer is not Ghostbusters.)

And so I looked forward to a clever updating of a classic Sherlock Holmes mystery, with Charlotte being enigmatic and distant, Jamie being dogged and exasperated by Charlotte’s mental gymnastics, and a grand Sherlockian reveal at the end. A pleasant exercise in nostalgia, mixed with a bit of sexual tension (not that there wasn’t sexual tension between the original Holmes and Watson) and teenage japery. All of which I found and enjoyed.

But A Study in Charlotte takes some cues from the more recent Sherlock television episodes as well, foregrounding the darkness that the elementary school me largely missed when I first read Conan Doyle’s stories. Cavallaro honors the Holmes canon while still building her own compelling characters and world. Now I, like my ravenous reading student, eagerly await Book Two in the Charlotte Holmes series.

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