Review: A Study in Charlotte

By: Brittany Cavallaro

Available on: Amazon, Audible, and Barnes and Noble.


Blurb: Teenager James Watson, direct decedent of that Dr. John H. Watson, ends up in the same boarding school as Charlotte Holmes. She also happens to be the latest generation, but of Sherlock Holmes’ family line. They are nothing to each other, yet, they still end up tangled together in a murder investigation that is far more complex, and life-threatening, than it first appears as not one but three of the old Holmes and Watson adventure are mocked while lives are threatened.

Trigger Warnings:

Blood, Bullying, Death, Drug Use (Illicit), Drug Use (Non-Consensual), Drug Use (Prescription), Food, Gambling (underage), Gun Violence, Mental Illness, Murder, Non-Consensual Sex, Non-Consensual Touching, Off Screen Sex, Physical Abuse, Poor Coping Mechanisms, Purple Prose, Rape (mentioned, off-screen), Self-Injury, Sexism, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, Toxic Masculinity, Unsafe Lifestyle, Unsafe Sex, Violence, Violent Imagery

Body Count: 2

The Specs:

  • Series 
    • Series Name: Charlotte Holmes Novel
    • Book Number: 1 of 4
  • Genre
    • Technical Genre: Teen & Young Adult Law & Crime Fiction, Teen & Young Adult Detective Story, Teen & Young Adult Law and Crime Stories
    • Theo Genre: YA Fiction, Young Adult Crime, Violent Fiction
  • Page count: 331 pages
  • POV: Limited 1st
  • Publication information:
    • Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
    • Language:  English
    • ISBN-13: 9780062398918
    • ASIN: B00Z74LWWY

Other Fun Stuff:

To Read or Not To Read (Again):

Furniture Support

Rating out of five: 2 out of 5

Representation, Morality, and Sexism Tests:

  • Bechdel–Wallace Test
    • Purpose: to establish actual female characters that act independently of male characters in a story.
      • Do two female characters talk about something other than a male character?
    • Pass or Fail: Pass
  • DuVernay Test:
    • Purpose: to establish characters of color in a story.
      • Are there fully actualized characters of color?
    • Pass or Fail: Fail
  • Ellen Willis Test:
    • Purpose: to show balance in characters regardless of gender.
      • Would two related characters still work to carry the story if their genders were reversed?
    • Pass or Fail: Pass
  • Hays Code Test:
    • Purpose: to ignore outdated and queer-degrading/punishing standards that once were the standard for produced mass media.
    • Part One: outdated moral guidelines
      • Are there any outdated “moral content” rules gloriously kicked in the teeth by this story?
      • Are there people of color allowed a happy ending?
      • Is there an interracial couple?
      • Is there profanity used at all?
      • Is there one or more homicidal acts and/or murder?
    • Part Two: queer representation
      • Are there queer characters that get a happy ending?
      • Is there an illegal or otherwise distasteful age gap between characters, queer or otherwise?
      • Do the queer characters die tragically, violently, or at all?
    • Pass or Fail: Fail
  • Mako Mori Test:
    • Purpose: to assure that in the story there is at least one female character independent of a male character’s story.
      • Is there a female character?
      • Does she get her own arc?
      • Does it do anything other than serve to support a man’s story?
    • Pass or Fail: Pass
  • Sexy Lamp Test:
    • Purpose: to assure that a female character in the story serves as an active protagonist, not just a device to be used by the male main character.
      • Would the plot fall apart if the female character was replaced by a sexy looking lamp?
    • Post-It Note Caveat:
      • Would the character be able to be replaced by a Sexy Lamp with a sticky note on it for information conveyance?
    • Pass or Fail: Pass
  • Tauriel Test:
    • Purpose: to help support the existence of competent, independent female characters regardless of a romantic sub-plot.
      • Is there at least one woman in the story?
      • Is this woman competent in her chosen occupation and not immediately shown up by a newcomer male character?
      • If she has or develops a love interest during the story, either implied or explicitly stated, does she suddenly abandon her job and/or chosen path to support or pursue said love interest? 
    • Pass or Fail: Pass
  • Vito Russo Test:
    • Purpose: to establish more characters that are on the SAGA (Sexuality And Gender Acceptance), QTPOC (Queer and Trans People of Color) or LGBTQIAP+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual/Biromantic/Bigender, Transgender, Queer/Genderqueer, Intersex, Asexual/Aromantic/Agender, Pansexual/Panromantic, and others not listed here) spectrum.
      • Is there a character on the queer spectrum?
      • Are they a character beyond their orientation?
      • Do they actually affect the plot?
      • Is the character something beyond a punchline?
    • Pass or Fail: Fail

Overall review:


While I’m not the target audience, I found some of the material to be a bit clumsily written. Violence was just glossed over, with no consequences. I kept rooting for Holmes and Watson to get away from each other because they are blatantly toxic and don’t mesh well. A Study in Charlotte is supposed to be a young adult read and I had a hell of a time getting through it. Between the casual, ham-handed handling of sexual assault as a just thing that happens with no warning to the rather deadly rage James Watson exhibited, I wouldn’t actually encourage a younger teen to read this.

The writing was clever enough, and readable. The rampant use of drugs by a teenager, even a Holmes, was off-putting as it seemed like it was fine, so long as it was this character doing it. There was a whole lot of disconnect between this world and what could pass for the real world. Underage gambling, drinking, drugs, rape, murder; all in all it made for a very difficult read.

I won’t be reading more of this series, despite initially looking forward to it as I am such a Sherlock Holmes fan.

Was it engaging?

Room for improvement

Favorite Character:

Milo Holmes, for his dramatic flair.

Review format updated 10 June 2019

One thought on “Review: A Study in Charlotte

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