3.5 out of 5 stars
Quirky and clever, this enjoyable teen twist is Sherlock-lite.
Charlotte Holmes is a lot like her great-something grandfather, Sherlock. Apparently, all the Holmeses are hyper-aware, “high-functioning sociopaths”, as my fave Sherlock so pithily put it. (♥️Cumberbatch♥️) They sounds like Cheryl’s family on “Riverdale” – scheming-ly evil, bordering on creepy, in a way that only rich people can be. We’re into it.
The Watson family is also of a type, and nursing an age-old strained relationship with the Holmeses. (Very cutely, Cavallaro describes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as “book agent” to the original Holmes and Watson.) In present day, teenage Jamie Watson is our normal navigator. He grew up in England, but his father moved to the States after his parents’ divorce. That touch provides a nice English-vs-American wink, and adjusts perceptions of just how important Sherlock and Watson were (and still are) in various contexts.
Jamie has wanted to meet Charlotte his entire life, like she’s the ticket to adventure and intrigue he’s owed. It finally happens at Connecticut boarding school, where they’ve been separately shipped from England. Meet cute or contrived? Classic Holmesian twist: it’s both, but not in the way you think. As quickly as they collide, Charlotte and Jamie become entangled in a murder on campus – as suspects, framed for a killing that is based on a famous Holmes & Watson story.
What ensues is a fun, teen-centric literary update. It wants to be “10 Things I Hate About You”, but tops out on the level of “She’s All That.” Quite good, but not quite great. (As ever, I lament that there is no choreographed dancing.) But there are surprises, and a few twists I didn’t figure out in advance. The dialogue is zippy. Charlotte’s genius/neuroses/craziness is painted with the same brush as the BBC Cumberbatch version – they could truly be related. Kudos to Cavallaro, that is a high mark to hit. As a result, Jamie’s exacerbation with Charlotte feels real. And this first book feels like it’s all just getting started.
(Flash forward: I’m onto the second novel, The Last of August, and it’s delish!)