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.
An NPR Best Book of 2016
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***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***
Copyright © 2016 Sherry Thomas
Had anyone told the Honorable Harrington Sackville that the investigation into his death would make the name Sherlock Holmes known throughout the land, Mr. Sackville would have scoffed.
He had never heard of Sherlock Holmes. But more importantly, he despised the idea of death. Of his death, to be precise—others could die as they wished.
He loathed old age almost as much: that long, vile decline into helplessness halted only by the final breath, falling like a guillotine blade.
And yet his reflection in the mirror made it increasingly difficult to tell himself that he was still a young man. He remained a fit man, a handsome man, but the skin beneath his jaw sagged. Deep grooves cut into the sides of his mouth. Even his eyelids drooped, heavy from the passage of time.
Fear hooked through him, cold and sharp. Every man was afraid of something. For him, death had long loomed as the ultimate terror. A darkness with fangs.
He turned away from the mirror—and the unwelcome thoughts that always simmered these days a scant inch beneath the surface. It was summer. The glow of twilight suffused the house. From his perch on the headlands, the bay blazed with the flame of the setting sun. A hint of salt fragranced the breeze that meandered in; the top note of that perfumed air was tuberose, bulbs of which he had imported from Grasse, in the south of France.
But a storm was coming; inky clouds gathered at the edge of the sky . . .
He inhaled deeply. No, he must not let his mind wander to shadowy places. Recent weeks had been difficult—the events in London particularly distressing—but in time things would improve. He still had many good years left to relish life, and to laugh at death and its still distant grasp.
No premonitions crossed his mind that death was to have him by morning.
But have him it would—and the last laugh.
On the day Mr. Harrington Sackville met his darkness with fangs, certain parties in the know were bracing for—and eagerly anticipating—a major scandal involving the youngest member of the Holmes family.
Lord Ingram Ashburton did not share in their anticipation. The idea that such a catastrophe could come to pass had haunted him for days. He did not yet know that Holmes was already doomed, but a sense of dread had been growing in him, a tumorlike weight on his lungs.
He stared at the envelope on the desk before him.
Mr. Sherlock Holmes,
General Post Office,
St. Martin’s Le Grand,
Any idiot could see the frustration that seethed with every stroke of the pen—at several places the nib had nearly torn through the linen paper.
The writing on the note next to the envelope was equally agitated.
And if you must, not with Roger Shrewsbury. You will regret it relentlessly.
For once in your life, listen to me.
He dropped his forehead into his left palm. It would be no use. Holmes would do as Holmes pleased, carried along on that blitheness born of extraordinary ability and favorable circumstances.
Until disaster strikes.
You don’t need to let it happen, said a voice inside him. You step in. You give Holmes what Holmes wants.
And then what? Then I carry on and pretend it never happened?
He stared out of the open window. His unimpeded view of the sky appeared as if seen through a lens that had been smudged with a grimy finger—a polluted blue, a fine day for London. Peals of irrepressible mirth rose from the small park below—his children’s laughter, a sound that would have brought a smile to his face on any other day.
He picked up his pen.
Do not do anything without first consulting me again.
Was he acquiescing? Was he jettisoning all caution—and all principle as well?
He sealed the unsigned letter in the envelope and walked out of his book-lined study, envelope in pocket. He was scheduled to give an archeological lecture in the evening. But first he wanted to spend some time with his daughter and son, rambunctious children at the peak of their happy innocence.
After that he would decide whether to post the letter or to consign it to the fire, like the dozen others that had preceded it.
The front door opened and in came his wife.
“Afternoon, madam,” he said politely.
“My lord.” She nodded, a strange little smile on her face. “I see you have not heard about what happened to your favorite lady.”
“My favorite lady is my daughter. Is anything the matter with her?”
He kept his voice cool, but he couldn’t stop the hair on the back of his neck from standing up: Lady Ingram was not talking about their child.
“Lucinda is well. I refer to . . .” Her lips curled with disdain. “I refer to Holmes. Your Holmes.”
“How dare you humiliate me this way?” Mrs. Shrewsbury rained down blows on her husband. “How dare you?”
The painted French fan, folded up, made for a surprisingly potent weapon—a cross between a bolt of silk and a police baton. Roger Shrewsbury whimpered.
He didn’t understand the way her mind worked.
Very well, he had committed an unforgivable error: The night before he’d been so drunk he mistook his wife for Mimi, his mistress, and told the wife what he was going to do this afternoon with Charlotte Holmes. But if Mrs. Shrewsbury hadn’t wanted him to deflower Miss Holmes, why hadn’t she smacked him then and there and forbidden him to do anything of the sort? Or she could have gone ’round to Miss Holmes’s and slapped her for not having a higher regard for her hymen.
Instead she had mustered a regiment of sisters, cousins, and friends, set his mother at the helm of the entire enterprise, and stormed the Bastille just as he settled into Miss Holmes. So how could she accuse him of humiliating her, when she was the one who had made sure that a good dozen other women saw her husband in flagrante delicto?
He knew better than to give voice to his thoughts. After twenty-six years as Lady Shrewsbury’s son and three as Anne Shrewsbury’s husband, he’d learned that he was always wrong. The less he said, the better.
The missus continued to hit him. He wrapped his arms around his head, made himself as small as possible, and tried to disappear into a nice memory, a time and a place in which he wasn’t a bounder twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year.
Lady Shrewsbury frowned mightily at the young woman who sat opposite her in the brougham. Charlotte Holmes was still, her face pale but composed.
Eerily composed, given she was now ruined beyond repair.
So composed that Lady Shrewsbury, who had been prepared for any amount of hysterical sobbing and frantic pleas, was beginning to feel rattled—a sensation she hadn’t experienced in years.
Lady Shrewsbury had been the one to throw a sheet over the girl. She had then ordered her son to go home with his wife, and the rest of the women to disperse. Miss Holmes had not trembled in a corner, her hands over her face. Nor had she stared numbly at the floor. Instead she had watched the goings-on as if she were a mere bystander, one whose own fate had not in the least taken an unthinkable turn. As Roger was shoved out by his wife, Miss Holmes glanced at him, without anger, loathing, or any reflection of his helplessness.
It had been a sympathetic and apologetic look, the kind the ringleader of a gang of unruly children might give one of her followers, after she had got the latter into unlimited trouble.
Lady Shrewsbury had fully expected this bravado to disintegrate once the others had gone. She was famous for her sternness. Roger, whenever he found himself alone with her, perspired even when she hadn’t planned to inquire into what he had been doing with himself of late.
But her formidableness had no effect on Charlotte Holmes. When the gaggle of eyewitnesses departed to spread the salacious story in drawing rooms all over London, Miss Holmes, instead of dissolving into tears, dressed and ordered a considerable tea service.
Then, under Lady Shrewsbury’s increasingly incredulous gaze, she proceeded to polish off a plate of plum cake, a plate of cherry tartlets, and a plate of sardine and toast. All without saying a single word, or even acknowledging Lady Shrewsbury’s presence.
Lady Shrewsbury controlled her vexation. Silence was one of her greatest weapons and she would not be goaded into abandoning that strategic advantage. Alas, her magnificent silence had no effect on Charlotte Holmes, who dined as if she were a queen and Lady Shrewsbury a lowly lackey, not worthy of even a spare glance.
When the girl was ready to leave, she simply walked out, forcing Lady Shrewsbury to catch up. Again, as if she weren’t a strict moral guardian escorting a fallen woman to her consequences, but a simpleminded maid scampering behind her mistress.
The silence continued in the brougham. Miss Holmes studied the carriages that clogged the street—shiny, lacquered town coaches jostling for space amidst long queues of hansom cabs. From time to time her gaze fell on Lady Shrewsbury and Lady Shrewsbury had the distinct sensation that of the two of them, Miss Holmes considered Lady Shrewsbury the far stranger specimen.
“Have you nothing to say for yourself?” she snapped, unable to stand the silence another second.
“For myself, no,” Charlotte Holmes said softly. “But I hope you will not be too harsh on Roger. He is not to blame for this.”
Inspector Robert Treadles of the Metropolitan Police always enjoyed an outing to Burlington House, especially to attend Lord Ingram’s lectures. They had met via a shared ardor for archeology—Lord Ingram had sponsored Treadles’s entry into the London Society of Antiquaries, in fact.
But this evening his friend was not himself.
To the casual observer, his lordship would seem to command the Society of Antiquaries’s meeting room, thorough in his knowledge, eloquent in his presentation, and deft with a touch of dry humor—his comparison of the ancient family strife caused by variation in size and ornateness of each member’s jeweled brooches with the modern jealousy aroused by the handsomeness of a sibling’s new brougham drew peals of laughter from the audience.
To Inspector Treadles, however, Lord Ingram’s delivery had little of its usual élan. It was a struggle. A futile struggle, moreover: Sisyphus pushing that enormous boulder up the hill, knowing that it would roll away from him near the top, condemning him to start all over again, ad infinitum.
What could be the matter? Lord Ingram was the scion of a ducal family, an Old Etonian, and one of the finest polo players in the world. Of course Inspector Treadles knew that no one’s existence was perfect behind closed doors, but whatever turbulence Lord Ingram navigated in his private life had never before been made visible in his public demeanor.
After the lecture, after the throng of admirers had dispersed, the two men met in a book-lined nook of the society’s soaring library.
“I’d hoped we could dine together, Inspector,” said Lord Ingram. “But I’m afraid I must take leave of you very soon.”
Treadles was both disappointed and relieved—he didn’t think he would be able to offer Lord Ingram much consolation, in the latter’s current state.
“I hope your family is well,” he said.
“They are, thank you. I’m obliged to pay a call on short notice, that is all.” Lord Ingram’s words were calm, yet there was a hollowness to his tone. “I trust we shall have the pleasure of a more leisurely meeting in the not too distant future.”
“Certainly, my lord.”
Inspector Treadles did not mean to delay his friend, but at that moment he remembered his other purpose for being at Burlington House this evening. “If it isn’t too much trouble, sir, may I ask you to convey a note to Holmes? I’m most grateful for his assistance on the Arkwright case and wrote a few lines to that effect.”
“I am afraid that would be impossible.”
Inspector Treadles almost took a step back at his friend’s expression: a flare of anger that bordered on wrath.
“I understand that you are engaged this evening, my lord,” Treadles explained hesitantly. “My note requires no haste and needs be relayed only at your lordship’s convenience.”
“I’m afraid I didn’t make myself clear,” said Lord Ingram. All hints of rage had left his countenance. His eyes were blank, the set of his jaw hard. “I can’t—nor can anyone else—convey any notes to Holmes. Not anymore.”
“I—I don’t—that is—” Treadles stuttered. “Has something terrible happened?”
Lord Ingram’s jaw worked. “Yes, something terrible.”
Inspector Treadles blinked. “Is . . . is Holmes still alive?”
“Thank goodness. Then we haven’t lost him completely.”
“But we have,” said Lord Ingram, slowly, inexorably. “Holmes may be alive, but the fact remains that Holmes is now completely beyond my reach.”
Treadles’s confusion burgeoned further, but he understood that no more details would be forthcoming. “I’m exceedingly sorry to hear that.”
“As am I, to be the bearer of such news.” Lord Ingram’s voice was low, almost inaudible.
Treadles left Burlington House in a daze, hounded by dozens of unhappy conjectures. Had Holmes leaped from a perilous height armed with nothing but an unreliable parachute? Had he been conducting explosive experiments at home? Or had his brilliant but restless mind driven him to seduce the wrong woman, culminating in an illegal duel and a bullet lodged somewhere debilitating but not instantly lethal?
What had happened to the elusive and extraordinary Sherlock Holmes?
Such a tragedy.
Such a waste.
Such a shame.
Excerpted from "A Study In Scarlet Women"
Copyright © 2016 Sherry Thomas.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The story can capture my attention enough to keep reading but I find the story hard to read due to the author's choice in vocabulary.....sometimes I feel like I am reading a Thesaurus. Maybe my preference is more of an easy read ......... I do like to learn new words but over zealous vocabulary in an attempt to capture the British intellect of the period is too much brain drane and it tends to hinder the imaginative experience.
How Sherlock Holmes would get his start if he were a woman. The story was intriguing and the dialogue was natural- never awkward; her writing style flows smoothly and the characters and their relationships are well rounded. I found the recommendation for this book on NPR's bestbooks list under the "Seriously Great Writing" category, and they were right. I'm going to buy the sequel as soon as possible.
A Study in Scarlet Women is a fun read, and a good read is what it should be. This review is going to be the little different because it is not going to be analyzing only the story in the written word but also the audiobook format. Some novels do not work as well as audiobooks, and this is one of them, unfortunately. As a story it is very cohesive there’s no denying that it has a solid beginning, middle, and end. Moreover, it follows the formula for a Sherlock Holmes stories, developing the mystery as it tells the story while it also capitalizes on those classic tropes that define Holmes. Thomas knows how to channel Holmes and captivate readers by doing so. However, the way the story moves is quite different from standard Holmes stories. Because Charlotte is living in Victorian England standards, women back then were just supposed to be wives and mothers, maybe even a governess. However, for Charlotte being who she is, it is predictable that she would find an escape route, a loophole that would strip her of her maidenhood and remove her from social standing, letting her be free to live her life the way she wants. However, with her options, limited Charlotte befriends a widow and former actress and starts her investigative service under the pretense that she is Sherlock Holmes sister. So unlike typical Holmes stories that have him visiting the scenes of the crime, Charlotte does not get to, only in rare instances. Instead, she is working off detailed information gathered from everyone else, her intellect and keen perception in order to solve the crimes. So it works enough to keep the story entertaining, to keep it fresh and nonrepetitive. It is an excellent novel; the only issue is the audiobook version of the story. The audiobook is not as clear as the novel when it comes to POV switches. It is a little confusing and unclear when the narrative switches, almost as if the story is jumping around. Often it is unclear who is talking and where the scene is taking place. The audiobook does not flow as well as the written word which makes it a little deterring. Despite that this is an excellent novel to read but not to listen to. The story works very well it does flow very well, and it builds up Charlotte as is a compelling female character. It is nice to see if email rendition done on Sherlock Holmes set in the Victorian period versus the modern term. Because it does highlight a lot of feminist equalities does highlight social injustice is in the world through a female narrative from a female perspective. (★★★☆☆ | B)
“Do you think extraordinary women ought to be treated differently my dear?...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.” This amazing reworking of Sherlock Holmes, set in the changing world of Victorian England, is exactly that- an extraordinary woman trying to make her own way in ordinary England after running up against the societal norms. The last child of a loveless marriage, Charlotte Holmes might be deemed on the Autism Spectrum these days (a trait some believe the original character Sherlock, and possibly A C Doyle himself suffered from). But it doesn’t define her, it makes her “different”. Her ability to see fine detail, to quiet observe, and to call upon exceptional memory makes her ideally suited for investigational study. Scandalized out of “ proper society, she cannot find work, until she happens upon an elder in need of a “companion “, and she and Mrs.Watson begin working together to find the killer in a series of sort-of connected deaths that have pointed fingers at the Holmes family. This book, although it starts slow, deserves every accolade it has won. Author Sherry Thomas, a well known historical fiction writer, has well researched intelligent characters in Charlotte and her cadre of misfits. I heartily wait for the next book in the series. Brava Ms. Thomas!
This was a well developed and thougtful first novel in the series. I look forward to the next book in the series which I have just preordered.
This was a very clever story and well written. I am looking forward very much to the sequel ?
I had looked forward to reading this book but found I really had to push to get through it because it dragged. At the end it seemed to throw in all sorts of extra little tidbits to tie in the entire Sherlock Holmes history and set you up for another book. I truly did not buy in to the entire "scarlet woman" idea for Charlotte. And ... well, there was a lot of different ideas that didn't work for me. However, I will keep an open mind and try to read the next book - to give this series a fair trial. That's why I'm giving it 3 stars. I can't say I hated it - because it was a different twist on the entire Sherlock Holmes theme.
What a unique take on Sherlock Holmes. As a young child, you never would have thought that quiet Charlotte would grow up to be the woman behind this determined and cunning novel. Charlotte studied individuals without them noticing her, she perceived things that others might not notice, carefully connecting the pieces until it all made sense to her. It was if she knew other individuals better than these individuals knew themselves. Charlotte didn’t limit herself to just people, she was conscious of her world, as others ran amok with the voice, Charlotte watched with her eyes. If was later that she realizes that she had to use her voice and I found it funny that at this age, she found it was difficult to find things to say and what she did finally say was awkward. Charlotte didn’t want to be the traditional wife and mother, Charlotte wanted more from life and she had a plan. She was determined to get there even if others got in the way. When she met up with Mrs. Watson, I thought she wouldn’t accept the job offered to her, as she would consider it to be tedious and boring but she took it. These two women turned out to be quite the talented duo. The Inspector and Lord Ingram were investigating these two murders. They are not getting very far when suddenly another death is added to the investigation. Were these murders related and if so, how? They decide to ask Sherlock Holmes for assistance but at the last minute they are denial assess to him. An in-between person relays the information for them and soon they have information from Sherlock to proceed on their case. It’s a strange setup but the case moves forward. The Inspector wonders if the information he received is really from Sherlock Holmes. I really enjoyed the character of Charlotte. She was an internal person who observed her world and connected all the dots, she was a thinker. She was honest and bold and you knew where you stood with her. During the scandal, I was thinking wow, this girl is so cold but as I took in the whole picture and saw her intentions, I was thinking otherwise. I found myself lost at times during this novel, the changing of the stories occurring without warning and there were times in the beginning of this novel it was slow. Now that I understand what is happening and who the characters are, I would like to read the second novel of this series. I received a copy of this novel from Read It Forward and Berkley in the Silent Book Club Sweepstakes.
Always love her books - they never disappoint!
Very good mystery with Sherlock Holmes played by Charlotte Holmes. Interesting characters and action throughout.
The recent interest in all things "Sherlock" has led to some very interesting stories. This is certainly one. Making good use of the societal restrictions applied by gender at the time, we are offered a marvelous look at what one very intelligent and resourceful young woman does to guarantee her freedom. It is well thought out and equally well written. The characters are engaging. I look forward to further adventures of Sherlock and Watson.
Sherry Thomas playing against type succeeds with her female Sherlock Holmes. Ms. Thomas' cast of characters in A Study in Scarlet Women are: Charlotte Holmes aka Sherlock Holmes, cherubic looking with big blue eyes and blonde curls and a sweet tooth to match; her eldest sister Livia Holmes; Lord Ingram Ashburton, Charlotte's/Sherlock's friend and confidant; Mrs Watson aka Mrs. Hudson, Charlotte's benefactress; Inspector Robert Treadles.BACKGROUND: The mysterious, eccentric Sherlock Holmes has already established his reputation for solving intricate, puzzling crimes via Lord Ashurton acting as intermediary with Inspector Treadles. Charlotte, who has received her fair share of marriage proposals has no desire to marry. But when her parents pressure her to do so, she takes drastic action to render herself unsuitable by arranging a tryst with a former suitor. They are caught in flagrante delicto by the rake's wife and mother, Lady Shrewsbury, and Charlotte is immediately shunned by London's society. Charlotte leaves the Holmes houshold to find work elsewhere. ACTION: The hale and hearty Lady Shrewsbury suddenly dies. Is it murder? If so, the prime suspect is Livia who was overheard threatening her. There are also other sudden deaths that Charlotte reads about in the newspapers: One Mr. Harrington Sackville of Stanwell Moot and one Lady Amelia Drummond. To distract the police from Livia, Sherlock Holmes writes an open letter to the coroner who examined Mr. Sackville's body that points out the similarities in all three deaths and suggests that there are connections in time and social connections of all three that should not be ignored. Inspector Treadles is on the case. SOLUTION: Read on to find out "who dunnit". Ms. Thomas's talents writing in this genre are remarkable.
Sherry Thomas took me back to another era and turned Sherlock Holmes on his—or rather, her—head. And try as I might, I couldn't solve the mystery. It's no wonder A Study in Scarlet Women was named one of NPR's Best Books of 2016. I look forward to the next book in the series. Extraordinary, my dear Watson!
I adored my time reading this book! There is just something about historical mysteries that I love. Add in Sherlock Holmes but with a twist and you have a book that I couldn't help but enjoy. I mean changing Sherlock Homes into Lady Sherlock is just brilliant in my opinion. It allows for the author to really explore what it means to be a woman during this time period and an exceptional one at that. Charlotte Holmes is one of the most unique characters that I've ever had the pleasure to read about. She more than likely would be considered to be a prodigy in this day and age, but as she is a woman during this time period she is just considered to be a bit unusual. Her father humors her more than anything and no one expects her to do anything outside of social norms. Despite expectations, Charlotte makes choices throughout this book that no one expects and it is these choices that lead her to take control of her own life. I loved every minute of it! She was such an amazing character to read about and I really could not get enough of her. When you then mix in an exceptionally good mystery, you have a wonderful read! I loved the way this book was broken up into almost two parts. One that focused on Charlotte and the challenges that she was facing and another on the actual police investigation. I honestly didn't even prefer one story line over the other as I found them both to be intriguing. I never was able to figure out the mystery on my own but was left surprised by the ending. It was just a really great mystery that was made even better by the wonderful characters that this author created. I finished this one and was almost sad to see it end. The only thing that makes it better is that it looks like this is the beginning of a series so I have more to look forward to! I cannot wait! On a side note, I think that this cover is so completely well done. How could you not want to pick up this book based off of that gorgeous cover alone? Overall, I really enjoyed this book and was left very excited about this series! If this is only the first book, I can only imagine what this author will come up with next. Charlotte is a character that I won't forget about anytime soon. I'm so glad that I didn't wait to read this one. I actually decided to read it based off of a tweet on Twitter. It was a great choice on my part so thanks to the book community yet again! I would recommend this book to mystery fans especially, but really I think that this is a book that anyone could enjoy! Highly recommended! Bottom Line: This book is as good as it looks! Read it! Disclosure: I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher and NetGalley.
Dollycas’s Thoughts I am in a quandary about this book. As a Sherlock Holmes fan I thought I would love this story. As a fan of Anna Lee Huber I love historical mysteries where the usual man’s part is played by a women so I should have loved this story. But this book started at a super slow pace to help us get to know Charlotte Holmes and something about her just felt off. After some thought I pinned it down to her behavior. She is very clever and has that Holmes insight but she doesn’t think her actions through which put her in places she didn’t need to be. She has a gift but was very unsure of herself at times, thankfully she found her Watson to help her out and guide her. The mystery itself seemed complex, but introduced almost too many characters to keep straight and it is told from multiple points of view. This is not a quick read, you need to slow down to be sure you catch each detail and realize which character is telling the story at the time. It jumps around a lot without much rhyme or reason. At times I felt we were reading the story of Inspector Treadles, instead of the story of Charlotte Holmes. Sad to say he didn’t really grab a hold of my either. It doesn’t help that Charlotte was investigating 3 separate deaths and trying to determine and convince Treadles how they were connected. Charlotte’s sister was the character that did grab me but she wasn’t present in the book as much as I would have liked. She came across as very genuine to me. The ending was a bit of a surprise but I wanted more, the case was wrapped up for me in a way that made no sense, especially after the time put into the investigation. As I reflect back I think the problem is something many first books in a series have, the endeavor of introducing the characters and giving readers a mystery we can sink our teeth into. I think the author just tried to cram too much into this first installment. I needed their to be less characters and more about those that remain and maybe just one death to get more acclimated to our new Holmes. That being said I may want to read book #2, but if it was available today I wouldn’t be rushing out to purchase it. Now that I know the characters a bit and after some time has passed I may be ready for another escapade with Miss Holmes, her family and her friends. This seems to be this accomplished author’s first stab into the mystery genre, I do have confidence she will find her way.
*Originally posted at The Bees Knees Bookish Korner **This ARC was given to me by NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This was an entertaining read. It had a very Sherlockian feel to it with added feminist twist. Sherry Thomas was vastly clever in her retelling of Sherlock and let’s face it, this is a story that has been retold by many authors in varying ways over the decades. I would think it would be a daunting task to not only take on such a revered story but to try and put any originality to it but Thomas succeeds. For the most part, all of the characters are well-developed, interesting, and three dimensional. The “but” in this is that I wish Thomas would have put a little more time into Charlotte’s love interest or not have given her one at all. It almost felt superfluous to the story. I’m thrilled that this is the first book in a series. However, reading this as an ARC, I’m going to have a verrrry long wait for the next installment.
Charlotte Holmes is a very bright woman who is highly observant of minuscule details that escape the normal person. She’s determined not to marry and just wants to get some education and become head of a school. That just doesn’t fit in with her Victorian world but she couldn’t care less. When her father changes his mind and denies her the dream of a future, she causes a scandal and runs away. Surprisingly, she hasn’t realized her dire situation, even though she thinks about what it means, until she’s almost out of money and can’t get a job because of her scandalous reputation that has quickly spread around London. Meanwhile, three deaths occur close to her home and her sister and family are blamed, bringing complete ostracism from society. Charlotte is determined to get to the bottom of the deaths! Eventually Charlotte, her friend Lord Ingram and Inspector Robert Treadles, take her advice, supposedly given by the “real” Sherlock Holmes, a step at a time and the reader will be shocked at the eventual outcome. Meanwhile, a new friend who has reached out to Charlotte suggests she advertise her skills of “discernment” and make that her career to earn the money she needs. Lo and behold, she is stunned by the number of requests she receives, and her sharp-mindedness and intuitive sense guide many a riddle or crime into satisfactory solutions. What is quite interesting is that solving the death of the three supposedly unrelated characters turns out to be not only clever but a bit anticlimactic. What keeps the story moving is a budding romance between Charlotte and Lord Ingram, the latter of whom has a few secrets of his own associated with “watching over” Charlotte. This very much fits in the with the noble Victorian mores of never allowing a woman to be left alone in danger but introduces a few hints of Charlotte missing the boat and thus introducing a wee lack of credibility on her part. Charlotte is an enigmatic character indeed! On the one hand, she’s definitely got the “Sherlock” clues in hand; yet she can be incredibly naïve about her own circumstances. Certainly, she has a prodigious appetite which she guides only by observing whether she’s coming close to a double chin or more. One senses that other appetites will develop now that she and Lord Ingram may, should fortune favor them so, become closer. However, that’s a problem that will have to await another novel in the series. All in all, A Study in Scarlet Women… is a good read that will please may fans of mystery fiction.
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas Book One of the Lady Sherlock series Publisher: Berkley Publication Date: October 18, 2016 Rating: 4 stars Source: eARC from NetGalley Summary (from Goodreads): 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. What I Liked: When I first saw this, I was curious, because I've read some of Sherry Thomas's books in the past, and really enjoyed them. She writes adult historical romance, Young Adult fantasy, and now alternate historical fiction! Such a wide range of fiction to write. And Thomas has not let readers down, in any genre or age level! I'm counting this as my Pili-Pushed recommendation of August! To see all of my Pili-Pushed reviews, click on the "Pili Pushed" tag on my blog! Charlotte Holmes has a brilliant mind and excellent memory, and it has always set her apart. She isn't interested in catching a husband and maintaining a household - she wants independence. To achieve her independence, she does something ghastly, and she runs away, as a result. Now on the streets, Charlotte is faced with the harsh reality of being a woman with no references, no experience, and no education. But when three deaths occur, two of which involving her sister and father, Charlotte knows she must do something to cast the blame elsewhere. She knows her family is innocent. Sherlock Holmes is born, a mastermind problem-solver, and it is up to Holmes to solve the mystery of the three murders. I liked Charlotte - she's so clever and observant, it's almost bizarre! At first I was furious at The Thing she did that turned society against her - how could she do something like that? But I came to really respect her decision, and who she involved, and why it needed to happen. I wish it had happened some other way, but you have to admit, it was... well thought-out. Charlotte - Sherlock - is brilliant and thinks of just about everything. At times I wondered if she felt human emotions like everyone else, but Charlotte is just as human as anyone else. Other characters worth mentioning - Mrs. Watson, Inspector Treadles, Lord Ingram, Livia. Mrs. Watson takes in Charlotte as a lady's maid, but she's more than meets the eye. In fact, Charlotte doesn't know certain things about Mrs. Watson until the very end of the book. Inspector Treadles is put in charge of investigating the Sackville death (one of the three), the one not indirectly related to the Holmes family. Treadles is quite intelligent in his own regard, and I love how sweet he is with his wife. Lord Ingram is a rich and powerful lord, married to a haughty, cold woman who is estranged from him, and has two children. Read the rest of my review on my blog, The Eater of Books! - eaterofbooks DOT blogspot DOT com :)