A new twist in the classic Sherlock Holmes’ story brings about an unlikely love story.

A Study In Charlotte

Author: Brittany Cavallaro

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Pages: 321

THOSE of us who grew up enjoying the brilliant detective Sherlock Holmes and his loyal sidekick Watson introduced by Scottish author Sir Author Conan Doyle might just find this gender-flipped interpretation of the crime-fighting duo interesting. (Un)coincidentally, the Holmes-Watson duo in this modern take is introduced in A Study In Charlotte, while the original detective was first introduced in A Study In Scarlett way back in 1887. A play of words reflecting the original 1887 title suggests a tribute of sorts to Doyle’s original stories.

With Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories placed in the realm of public domain, it seems that a lot of people have jumped on the bandwagon to write books or make movies using Doyle’s iconic characters. Author Brittany Cavallaro has come up with an interesting premise. Forget the pipe-smoking uncle-type characters of yore, meet Charlotte Holmes — she’s female, young and just as brilliant. Hold on to your deerstalkers folks, the world of Sherlock Holmes mysteries has got itself a new heroine.

The first (book) in what looks to be an interesting trilogy, Cavallaro introduces us to the teen descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. The Charlotte Holmes series follows the great-great-grandchildren of the fabled Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. In this world, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author, gets rewritten in as their publicist! While the Watson family lived relatively normal lives, the Holmes clan continued the legacy of Sherlock by training their children in the arts of deduction, baritsu, and a myriad of other Holmesian pursuits, thus rendering offspring Charlotte a sleuth extraordinaire with little people skills.

Jamie Watson has always been captivated by Charlotte Holmes. After all, their great-great-great-grandfathers were one of the most infamous pairs in history. However, he has also to contend with Charlotte’s inherited volatile temperament and some of good old Sherlock’s vices.

Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes suffered from the awful, weighty burden of his terrible genius while Charlotte’s suffers from —among others — the same tragic burden, her gender, and the constraints and limitations placed upon her because of her family’s heritage.

When the pair end up at the same Connecticut boarding school, Charlotte makes it clear she’s not looking for friends. Then a student they’re both connected to dies under suspicious circumstances ripped straight from the most terrifying of all Sherlock Holmes’ stories and the duo gets framed for murder.

In this witty, suspenseful debut, Jamie is forced to team up with the one person who constantly tries to repel him, and forges an unlikely alliance to clear their names and find the real murderer. Besides following them on a trail of clues left behind by a ruthless killer, we find parallels in the duo’s relationship with the original crime-fighting team. Charlotte is the brilliant egoistical sleuth nursing a giant chip on her shoulder while Jamie is the quintessential Dr Watson, providing a sympathetic foil to her angst, and putting up with her many oddities.

What’s Hot: A FEMALE Sherlock Holmes? Why not? She’s brilliant and yet has so much angst, I’m rooting for her to get her head out of her well... never mind. Nevertheless, Cavallaro’s writing, her flawed characters and addictive mystery kept me turning the page until the end.

What’s Not: If you’re not a Sherlock Holmes fan, you might find it a little much to take in with its intricate plot and many backstories. Like Watson of old, poor Jamie Watson gets the bum rap most of the time and provides a point of comparison to her genius — by being a clueless dork (my words, not Cavallaro’s). Ah, but that’s what love does, does it not? Turn normal people into blithering idiots?

The Last of August

Author: Brittany Cavallaro

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Pages: 315 pages

THE adventures of Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson continues. In this second brilliant action-packed book in the Charlotte Holmes trilogy, Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes go on a winter break reprieve after a fall semester that almost got them killed.

But nothing about their time off is proving simple. First Jamie’s mama dearest gets her knickers knotted up over her son’s questionable choice in friendship. Then he gets to meet her reclusive family up in Sussex estate where the mood gets palpably tensed as he discovers she isn’t the only one carrying a number of skeletons in the closet.

And THEN, it’s about his and Charlotte’s growing feelings for each other. What began as a tentative friendship burgeons into something more.

Yet, the darkness in Charlotte’s past is a wall they’re both unable to break through. After all, try getting through a closet filled with skeletons lying over barrels full of teen hormones. A potential combustion

which I hope will spill over to Cavallaro’s third book.

A much-needed distraction from their relationship issues crops up soon enough. When Charlotte’s beloved uncle Leander goes missing from the Holmes estate —after being oddly private about his latest assignment in a German art forgery ring — the game is afoot once again, and Charlotte throws herself single-mindedly into a pursuit for answers.

Uncle Leander’s disappearance soon plunges Charlotte and Jamie into a dark world of murder, technology, international intrigue, and art forgery, as well as the multigenerational blood feud between the Holmeses and the Moriartys (because if Holmes and Watson were both real people with families, it stands to reason that Doyle’s Moriarty character — and the original Holmes’ arch-nemesis — was as well!)

So a dangerous race begins from the gritty underground scene in Berlin to the glittering art houses in Prague, where Charlotte and Jamie discover that this complicated case might change everything they know about their families, themselves, and each other.

What’s Hot: For any Sherlock Holmes fan (the original, I mean), Cavallaro’s version might prove to be an enjoyable read. After all, it’s interesting to see the original characters being reworked into a contemporary version. And, of course, the love story.

Who doesn’t like a love story thrown into the mix somehow? Charlotte’s angst might get a tad annoying but the palpable tension between the two got me piqued. Now I want to know what happens next. Plot schlot. Are they going to have their happy ending in the third book or not?

What’s Not: This book is definitely not a standalone. If you’ve not read the first instalment, chances are you will get a little lost in this.

Then again if you’ve read it, you might still get lost. The plot gets convoluted and, well, twisty. After a while, you’re torn between wanting to fling the book away and reading on just to find out if the two star-crossed lovers get their happy ending. Forget the plot —I’m a romantic so I kept plodding through.

But then, in keeping with the Young Adults predictable plot twist, there’s a (yawn) love triangle. Again. Thankfully it’s kept to a minimum. Another peeve? The ending left me hanging. Aside from my amazing rhyming ability, I’m also impatient and driving my editor up the wall to get hold of the third book. Faster-lah Cavallaro!

elena@nst.com.my

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