A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry ThomasLady Sherlock #1
Published on October 18, 2016 by Berkley Books
Genres: Adult, Historical, Mystery
USA Today bestselling author Sherry Thomas turns the story of the renowned Sherlock Holmes upside down…
With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.
When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her. But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.
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This book was provided by the publisher (via NetGalley). This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Sherry Thomas asks us the question: “What if Sherlock Holmes was a woman?”
I give you Charlotte Holmes, an inquisitive and intelligent young woman discontent with her role in society as nothing more than a pretty face meant for marriage and motherhood. A Study in Scarlet Women examines the difficulties a woman of the Sherlockian age had in order to survive independently. As Charlotte discovers these difficulties for herself, there is a murder afoot that requires the aid of one mysterious Sherlock Holmes.
This isn’t my first go with Thomas’ work and I wasn’t disappointed with the level of detail and intricacies of this book. I love Sherlock and found this genderbend of the famed story just as riveting as the original. You actually experience the mystery through several characters that interact with “Sherlock” at one level or another, from the inspector on the case to a lord who’s known Charlotte since childhood, to her sister Livia and finally the ever-prominent Watson as in every Sherlock story.
In the beginning, I really didn’t get much of Charlotte’s character. The plot revolved around Livia detailing her sister’s childhood and the inspector looking into a couple mysterious deaths. Once Charlotte made her society “debut” everything picked up and I couldn’t stop reading. The way it switches from one character to another made it especially hard to pinpoint who the villain was of the whole book, what with the red herrings sprinkled throughout. Yet at the end, I couldn’t believe how everything connected (clearly I’m no Sherlock myself).
And Charlotte was truly the feminine Sherlock. I loved her view of the world, so matter-of-fact and analytical. At times, I felt she wasn’t quite true to the Sherlock Holmes character we know and love as she wasn’t always so clever as she’s made out to be and she feels more emotions than I’ve ever seen a Sherlock have. Though we get multiple PoVs, hers was by far my favorite. This is true especially because most of the characters were somewhat… boring.
It’s odd, because at the end of the book I enjoyed it but while reading I was horribly confused. All the events leading to the final mystery reveal made no sense the way they were hodge-podged together. I couldn’t follow the mystery, as a reader, and instead of making the murders more intriguing it left me in a state of befuddlement I wasn’t particularly fond of.
The inspector, Treadles, leads this book’s story and I really want to know why. From the synopsis I expected Charlotte Holmes to be the major player but, in fact, she was much more of a side character going off on her adventures to find a job and be independent. It eventually led to the standard Baker Street and Watson but the road to that point was long and tedious.
I don’t read many mysteries but I feel like if the reader can’t even grasp an inkling of what is going on, then it’s probably not a very good mystery… Instead it seemed more like a panorama of events where the connecting sections were covered until the very end. Though I enjoyed the writing and really felt submerged in the world, the mystery itself was bland at best.
Yet in the end, I came out enjoying the book, perhaps due to the satisfaction of everything wrapping up. And with the briefest mention of Moriarty, I’m hooked for a sequel. Because if you’re going to give me a villain, it had better be him.