This week I am doing a backlist review of the Charlotte Holmes books from Brittany Cavallaro. I am stoked to get my hands on the fourth and final book in the series, A Question of Holmes, which was released on March 5th. One of my dear friends is getting me a signed copy, so until she gets a chance to send it to me, I will satisfy myself with reliving these books through reviews. The synopsis for A Question of Holmes is at the very bottom of the page for you to check out!
A Study in Charlotte
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Rating: 5 Stars
Here’s the deal: I strongly dislike contemporary novels, especially YA contemporaries. But a Sherlock Holmes inspired YA contemporary? I couldn’t buy this book fast enough. The story is about the descendants of the original Holmes and Watson (yes, they are real in this universe), Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes. Jamie transfers to the same Connecticut private school that Charlotte attends and from there the games is afoot. Yes, I am also disappointed in myself for going there.
Jamie and Charlotte very obviously come together to solve a murder, one that they are being framed for. The whole mystery behind the murder is wild to say the very least. This book is far darker than I was expecting. Not only is there the whole murder thing, but drug addiction and rape. While these are very difficult topics, I felt they were handled respectfully. I am far from being a teen these days, but I think it’s important have YA stories that deal with harder topics.
I really enjoyed the way that Jamie and Charlotte were similar to the original Watson and Holmes (or at least what I can remember of the original stories. My brain also remembers the TV/movie version too well so I’m sure I’m leaning more towards those interpretations), but in a perfectly modern way. Charlotte is highly intelligent and though she can be abrasive at times, I felt she does care. From past traumas and her harsh upbringing (which you learn more about in later books), it is just hard for her to care for people in traditional ways. And then there is Jamie. The boy is kind of a doof sometimes, but he’s a teenage boy who has been brought up with stories of all the great Holmes and Watson’s before him. We can hardly blame him for diving head first into a not so healthy and fairly co-dependent friendship with Charlotte.
A Study in Charlotte is so vastly different from any YA contemporary that I’ve ever read, and I am so happy I picked it up. If you like Holmes/Watson, wildly dramatic murder mysteries, layers of secrets and betrayals, and high levels of snark, A Study of Charlotte is for you.
The Last of August
Release Date: February 14, 2017
Rating: 3 stars
The tag line for this one is “Watson and Holmes: A match made in disaster.” This describes the relationship of these two characters so perfectly I cannot even. I thought A Study in Charlotte was twisty and turny, but The Last of August dials the chaos up to 11.
I loved that the story is based in England and Berlin this time around, so we get a nice scenery change. I loved the art forgery aspect to the case. We get more background on all the families, most importantly the Moriartys. The three families are endlessly fascinating and dysfunctional.
While I still enjoyed this one, I had two problems: the ending and the Charlotte/Jamie dynamic. The ending was chaotic, and I found myself not really following what was going on. It feels fast paced, but then you suddenly realize you are lost in the plot, but you are reading so fast you feel as though you can’t stop and go back. I felt like I needed a flow chart of how everything came together in that ending.
Then we have Charlotte/Jamie. Look, I love a good angsty romance, but this book took it to the point of me not enjoying it. Its been a while since I’ve read the book, but I just remember having an overwhelming sense that Jamie wanted to fix Charlotte and the PTSD she suffers from her rape. And this is NOT OKAY. The almost love triangle that goes on is not fun either. August Moriarty is probably one of the more sympathetic characters in this whole book and Jamie constantly needing him to be the villain was annoying.
While I still mostly enjoyed this when I read it, looking back I see a lot more problems with it. I originally rated this a 4 star but I’m going to knock it down to 3.
The Case for Jamie
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Rating: 4 stars
Where The Last of August was kind of a mess for me at times, The Case for Jamie really drew me back in. None of the characters miraculously turn into better people, but the writing and plotting was better and I think having Charlotte and Jamie apart for a while was a good idea. Getting more of Charlotte’s POV really helped too. I still kinda want to smack Jamie through the whole book, but he is a teenage boy so that doesn’t really surprise me. Looking back on this book and the series as a whole, I feel like Charlotte and Jamie are my original trash children (current trash kids are Jude and Carden). Like, I love them, but also, they are so terrible. But the author isn’t going for a perfect, healthy relationship with these two. It’s hard because, I’m reading this as an adult, so I know that relationships like the one between Charlotte and Jamie are not great, but I can revel in the drama because the relationships in this book aren’t shaping my views on relationships. I like that the author shows the ugly sides of the relationship and how Charlotte and Jamie work through it. No person and no relationship is ever perfect, so I don’t want them written that way, but toxic relationships shouldn’t be glamorized to teens. I think these books walk that line, though sometimes they are a little too close to the edge. And I’m going to hop off this slippery slope rant I’ve sudden found myself in.
At the end of the day, The Case for Jamie is a vast improvement on the second book. Each book in this series is like pulling back the layers on these families and seeing the flawed humans they are. But like I’ve said, no one is perfect. I really feel like the characters in these books are all too human in a way we try to pretend we aren’t. I cannot wait to read the final book in the series, A Question of Holmes.
A Question of Holmes
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Synopsis: Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson think they’re finally in the clear. They’ve left Sherringford School—and the Moriartys—behind for a pre-college summer program at Oxford University. A chance to start from scratch and explore dating for the first time, while exploring a new city with all the freedom their program provides. But when they arrive, Charlotte is immediately drawn into a new case: a series of accidents have been befalling the members of the community theater troupe in Oxford, and now, on the eve of their production of Hamlet, they’re starting all over again. What once seemed like a comedy of errors is now a race to prevent the next tragedy—before Charlotte or Jamie is the next victim.