In the course of looking through Goodreads for upcoming releases I discovered that Sherry Thomas was soon to release a retelling of Sherlock Holmes. A Study In Scarlet Women would feature a female in the role and to say I was intrigued would be an understatement.
Charlotte Holmes is a woman misunderstood by her family. Her brilliant and logical mind and ability to see and decipher even the smallest clues amuses her father, but leads her mother to despair of her youngest daughter ever finding a husband. Charlotte herself has no desire whatsoever in settling down with a husband or setting up her own household. In fact she desires quite the opposite and makes a deal with her father that would enable her to eventually gain independence. When he inevitably lets her down she does what she must to make sure that no man will ever want to take her as wife. Her ruination doesn’t quite go as planned, and she is distressed to find that her family is suspect in a murder. It doesn’t take long for her to put together that the death of this one woman might be part of a bigger crime that involves multiple dead bodies. And she might be the only one who can solve the mystery.
I started this book with my usual routine in mind, which is right before bed, with the intention of only reading a few chapters. I usually finish a book by early evening, but can’t seem to sleep well unless I know what I intend to read next and like to at least get in one or two chapters. I will admit that the beginning was a tad confusing. It began by throwing readers right in the middle of a mystery and introducing multiple POVs, then veers off and introduces Miss Charlotte Holmes and how her journey to detective began. Confusing, yet interesting, as I found myself wondering how in the world everything would later tie together. Which means I ended up reading far more than a couple of chapters before I finally convinced myself to put my Kindle down and go to sleep.
Charlotte is an enjoyable and refreshing heroine. Her amazing mind, independent spirit and ability to use her memory and logic to ferret out people’s backgrounds, motives, and desires appealed to me almost from the beginning. As she escapes the life expected of her and begins her journey toward true independence, first finding her way on the London streets and ultimately as the companion of one Mrs. John Watson, I loved watching her evolve into the Sherlock Holmes that people come to looking for help in solving even the most unsolvable mysteries. She is surrounded by an entire cast of characters that ultimately help her in unraveling the mystery plot and each added something to this story. I believe they will become even more interesting as this series progresses.
There is a hint of a romance between Charlotte and Ingram that I’m not sure how I feel about just yet. My first instinct was to be taken aback as Ingram is married, albeit a cold and loveless marriage that obviously has issues, but still married. It’s obvious that Charlotte and Ingram have a history and he cares about her so much that he has become her self-appointed guardian and helper. I wonder where Ms. Thomas intends to take their relationship.
The only thing I think may disappoint or be problematic to some readers is the multiple shifts in POV. Also, while Charlotte directs most of the investigation, in the guise of a helpmate to the real Sherlock Holmes, for most of the book she isn’t who actually does any investigating. Her role is simply to guide one Inspector Treadles as he cobbles together information. I think the knowledge that this was the first book and ultimately had to introduce and set up what will hopefully be an ongoing series allowed me to be a little more forgiving. Not to mention the fact that I’m not bothered in the least with multiple POV storylines. While I may have been slightly confused starting out, it didn’t take me long to find my footing and came to really enjoy being in a different character’s head. If only to see what the ongoing investigation looked like to someone other than Charlotte.
I believe even a reader not thoroughly knowledgeable about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original will enjoy this retelling. They will recognize some of the character names and ultimately, I think, want to at least go and read A Study in Scarlet, where Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson were first introduced. A Study In Scarlet Women has something for just about every reader and I am very much looking forward to finding out what comes next. Final Grade- B-
The extraordinary will always be treated differently– they’re extraordinary, after all. What I wonder is whether a not-so-extraordinary woman will ever be treated the same as a not-so-extraordinary man.”