Book Reviews

Book Review: A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas


This book was reviewed for the Manhattan and Seattle Book Reviews

Thomas’ A Study in Scarlet Women is a unique reimagining of the tales of the Great Detective. Charlotte Holmes is a young lady born to aristocratic Victorian Age parents. As such, she is expected to find a suitable marriage match before too many Seasons have run course, else she be doomed to spinsterhood. Charlotte, though, has other plans. For one, the person she truly loves is unattainable. Second, she is highly intelligent, with a quick, inquisitive mind, things seen as undesirable in a wife.

A failed promise on her father’s part has Charlotte taking matters into her own hands, and soon estranged by choice from her family. She takes up with a former actress, a Mrs Watson, who soon finds use for Charlotte’s quick mind. Under the assumed name of ‘Sherlock’ (close enough to Charlotte, and not the masculine equivalent), she begins to take cases from clients, using her skills to help them. Charlotte has already had some success in aiding Scotland Yard, via letters from ‘Sherlock’, in making headway into a very public profile case.

I found this book somewhat scattered until the point Mrs Watson finds Charlotte. Other than vague hints that make not much sense unless you happened to read the book blurb, no connection is made between Charlotte and Sherlock at first, which just seems odd given that we already know. That’s not a big reveal. It’s just confusing if, for some reason, you haven’t read the back of the cover. Or even if you have… I kept second-guessing if I had read correctly and finally went back and reread the back cover. Another sticky point for me is the method of retaliation Charlotte chose. She’s very intelligent. I found it somewhat difficult to believe she wouldn’t have worked through all the consequences of these actions, and just chosen to leave the family without all that. Part, I get, is revenge against her parents. Part I can chalk up to sheltered youth. These things almost netted 3*, but the factors below redeemed it.

That being said, I did love it once Charlotte met Mrs Watson. The pace picked up considerably, and the threads drew together. I loved the title’s play on the original A Study in Scarlet, and how that theme kept showing up. I enjoyed matching characters to their Canon compatriots, and seeing how these new relationships worked. I won’t give any away here. That was half the fun, for me anyway. I felt this underlying story, though still one of revenge, was so much harsher than Doyle’s original, dealing with a crime so dastardly that even hardened criminals, hardened killers, will reap vengeance upon one convicted of such, if thrust into their midst.

???? Recommended, especially if you enjoy Holmesian variant stories. I eagerly await the next book!

Leave a Reply