Historical Fiction, Mystery/Thriller

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

After reading A Study in Charlotte, I was ready to look for another novel that put a twist on the classic Sherlock Holmes story. I wanted to see what other retellings were out there and compare them to the original to see if they match up. I was especially interested in this book because it took place in the Victorian era, and I love reading historical fiction. Anyways, let me not continue blabbing… here is my review:

Charlotte Holmes is unlike most females in that she has no care for what society thinks of her and is in no way interested in acting like a proper lady with an upper class upbringing. She knows that she will never live a conventional life, but even she did not ever imagine that she would become a social pariah and would be cast out into the streets of London. When the city faces a trio of unexpected deaths among the nobility and suspicion falls on Charlotte’s sister and father, Charlotte is desperate to uncover the identity of the real killer and clear her family of all charges. With help from old friends and new, Charlotte, under the assumed name of Sherlock Holmes, will start her journey to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against cunning criminals and devious masterminds.

In the beginning of the story, I fell in love with the descriptions of England and society. I loved reading from the perspective of Charlotte’s sister, Olivia, and I loved seeing all of the different events leading up to Charlotte’s removal from her home. While that was all very interesting, it didn’t really have anything to do with the actual mystery itself. By the time we got to the good stuff, I was confused by the overwhelming number of characters and all of their different POVs, which alternated from one chapter to the next. The mystery itself was not told entirely from Sherlock’s perspective but rather from a detective, who, while being a very nice character, was someone I couldn’t care about. It took me a little time to get all of the names and relationships straight as the mystery surfaced, and then disappeared, and then resurfaced. By the time the novel concluded, I felt very disappointed with the way the story had turned out. This was definitely not a Sherlockian story. There wasn’t really much deduction used and Charlotte’s “skill” seemed to be limited to her ability to summarize a person’s life just by one glance. Other than that talent, she wasn’t really very intelligent and I never really felt as if she solved the mystery. I wish Charlotte had had a more active part. When the character of Mrs. Holmes was introduced, I was extremely excited because I thought it would be such fun to see a female Watson-Holmes duo. But instead, Mrs. Holmes was just a good companion and friend to Charlotte and didn’t do much in terms of helping solve the mystery. All in all, I wasn’t too happy with this story. It wasn’t badly written or anything, but it lacked the wit and action that makes the original Sherlock Holmes story so enticing and delightful. I will continue to look for a good Sherlock Holmes retelling, however, because I am sure it will be done one day! This novel is best suited for people who like mystery stories with female protagonists but aren’t too particular about the connection with Sherlock Holmes.

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