3.5 out of 5 stars
Just the second installment this series needed.
What is it about Germany that makes it a perfect setting for gritty crimes, spy games, and art forgery? That’s where Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson end up in their second adventure.
Darker and more tangled that A Study in Charlotte, The Last of August is a graduated step toward the tone of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories. Though the genre is YA, Cavallaro doesn’t shy away from drugs, despair, and doom. Which makes this book sound like far less fun than it truly is.
Over Christmas break, Jamie agrees to accompany Charlotte home to the family estate. It’s like “Get Out” minus the racism, like “The Royal Tenenbaums” minus the humor. Her parents are a predictable nightmare, their house a Haunted Mansion tableau of rigidity and loneliness. So, when Uncle Leander disappears, Charlotte and Jamie are off the Berlin to find him – and find help. Milo offers both things: the use of his black-ops military empire base in Berlin, and a guide to it all. August Moriarty.
Readers of Book 1 will know that Charlotte and August have history. The unrequited love, setup in a drug bust, ruin-your-life-and-fake-your-death kind, befitting a Holmes and Moriarty.
Now, they meet again. There’s a strange and lovely lack of bad blood between them, as if they understand a shared brokenness brought about by their twisted upbringings and eternal feud. Charlotte and August get each other in a truly interminable way, and Cavallaro does a smooth, subtle job of capturing that dynamic. Jamie, the emotionally abused non-boyfriend/knight errant, is a perfect mirror. He panics in every possible way: too nice, too mean, tries to push, then pulls away. Most of all – key Sherlock component – he feels impossibly stupid next to the two of them. So Jamie decides to start solving Leander’s disappearance himself.
Of course, Charlotte and August are right behind him (or maybe they were going slowly on purpose). They dovetail perfectly as a crime-solving pair, maybe better than she and Jamie do. But that’s why they don’t work, and Jamie soon comes into his own as someone Charlotte benefits from, if not exactly needs.
The case is nutty: undercover agents, forged art, fake auctions, disguises, rescues, and derring-do. It’s confusing, mostly because so many involved Holmeses means so many secret deductions. The end game reveals that Charlotte, Milo, Leander, and both of her parents were steps ahead, sometimes in the wrong direction. Another total Sherlock move. Just give up getting it and let Holmes – any Holmes – reveal it in due course.
[Spoiler Alert, sort of…] In the abrupt ending, someone important dies. All their hoarded secrets and pernicious hatred lead to a homicide .(Murder? Manslaughter?) The Holmeses are sociopaths, but not monsters, and this death exposes the hearts they were wont to bury. It’s bleak and quick. How can these characters, seriously damaged as they are, untangle themselves from this? You’ll want to pick up the next book immediately to find out.
Finally, enjoy this BOOK TRAILER LOVE!!