A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
Charlotte Holmes has a brilliant analytical mind. Unfortunately, as a society woman in Victorian England, the outlets for her brilliance are few and far between. Her parents expect her to be perfectly respectable, and not to scare off potential suitors with her uncanny powers of observation and deduction. Seeking an independent life out from under her parents’ thumb, Charlotte concocts a scheme to take herself off the marriage market permanently. Unfortunately, things go awry and Charlotte finds herself a social pariah. She now has her independence, but little else besides her considerable wits and the clothes on her back.
And then, naturally, death. Three upstanding members of society are dead, in different parts of the country, from different causes. When Charlotte, writing under the nom de plume Sherlock, writes to the police, pointing out the suspicious nature of all three deaths, the interconnectedness of the families involved, and the likelihood of poison as the true cause of death, she unwittingly causes the suspicion for committing the murders to fall upon her sister and father. Charlotte must now use her unusual talents to uncover the identity of the real murderer in order to save her family. With the help of a childhood friend, Lord Ingram, lively widow Mrs. Watson, and police inspector Treadles, Charlotte is on the case!
I was hesitant to read this book at first. I love the idea of a gender-swapped Sherlock Holmes, but I kept envisioning all the horrible ways such an endeavor could go wrong. I began this book with a healthy amount of skepticism, and I’m delighted to say that I was pretty much completely wrong! The strength of this book is that Sherry Thomas did not take the story “A Study in Scarlet”, or the character of Sherlock Holmes, and simply insert a woman into the assigned places. Thomas has made a story, and a character, completely separate from the original Holmes and his stories, yet bearing enough nods to the original to please a hardcore fan (like me).
Charlotte Holmes is blonde and cherubic. Her vice is not cocaine or hours of sawing on the violin, but fine food and plum cake. Her demeanor is very Sherlockian, though this Miss Holmes, being a woman, has had to curb the sarcasm and sharp edges Sherlock was entitled to. Additionally, investigating a murder as a woman in Victorian England is no small feat. Charlotte must be constantly inventive in order to continue her investigation and maintain the illusion of “Sherlock Holmes” to the public and to the police.
In all, Sherry Thomas does a great job in making this story her own. She also highlights the roadblocks a brilliant woman would face in Victorian England should she attempt to do anything considered to be “unwomanly”. Thomas’ characters are interesting and her plot misdirects and folds back on itself admirably. I wound up quite liking the character of Charlotte Holmes, and I can’t wait to read her further adventures.
An advance ebook was provided by Berkley Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. “A Study in Scarlet Women” will be available for purchase on October 18th, 2016.