I’ve never actually read Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels about the Sherlock Holmes, but I’ve watched every retelling of the story. To the point that I know how his mind works, how he analyzes every clue – his voice. And Sherry Thomas captures this expertly in Study in Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock #1). But in her retelling Sherlock Holmes is a woman – and this made it more interesting to me.
A Discerning Mind
Sherlock Holmes had a very discerning mind, he looked at something and could deduce a lot from mere observation. An admirable trait to be sure, but he was a man and in the time he lived in it was acceptable for men to use their brains effectively. But Charlotte Holmes was a woman and was not afforded the same courtesy although she was just as brilliant. In fact she managed to push suitors away by revealing what she can surmise from just observing them.
Disregard for Consequences
Like Sherlock, our female version had a huge disregard for the consequences of her actions. She would logically formulate a solution to her problem without considering society’s ire. As was demonstrated by her indiscretion with the sole purpose of avoiding marriage. She failed to consider how much more difficult her life would be if she wasn’t considered respectable.
Although she is female, Charlotte Holmes, is emotionally deficient. She doesn’t understand how different people react in stressful situations. She can deduce what they are reacting to, but she doesn’t understand why they would choose emotion over logic.
Watson is the perfect foil for Sherlock Holmes’ eccentricities. He’s practical and conservative. He tries to steer him toward the right path. In this retelling, Watson is a benefactor – a demi monde widow who can move in society without as much restriction as Charlotte. She is more of an enabler than a cautioning presence in her life.
A Love Interest
This is my favorite part of the retelling, Charlotte has a love interest, Lord Ingram. A childhood friend who was her first kiss and who is so unattainable I want to move heaven and earth to get them together. He is more like Sherlock’s Watson – the man who keeps her in line. A protector who regards her as an equal although she is a woman.
A Consulting Detective
She has a detective who consults with her to solve crimes too. Lord Ingram had tried to hide her gender from him – became an accomplice to her elaborate farce of having an invalid brother who is providing all her insights. In the end, the detective discovers the truth and is unsure if he wants to continue the relationship
Sherlock’s nemesis is introduced in this novel too. He did not come across as a scary evil genius like the original Moriarty did. In the end his wife explained the motivation to their murder spree in a letter to Charlotte. They were already her main suspects, but instead of Charlotte deducing their motives, it was explained to her. This felt like it should have been done differently.
The spymaster brother is Lord Ingram’s brother in this retelling. He sends Lord Ingram on missions under the guise of archeological digs. He was Charlotte’s favorite suitor because of the effect he had on Lord Ingram. In the end of this story, Mycroft invites her to work for him. He dangled working closely with Lord Ingram as a carrot to her.
A Most Satisfying Ending
Sherry Thomas ended the story with a passionate kiss and I wanted to clap in delight. A detective story with a passionate romance – who would have thought that would come out so well?
I would recommend these to lovers of detective stories, particularly those who love Sherlock Holmes. I did not expect to enjoy this story so much, but I did. Readers who enjoy strong female leads should check this out as well. I promise you’d be cheering for Charlotte Holmes to the very end.