A Study In Scarlet Women (The Lady Sherlock)
by Sherry Thomas
Cover Artist: Shane Rebenschied / Shannon Associates
Review by Gayle Surrette
Berkley Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425281406
Date: 18 October 2016 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
I'm a fan of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes so how could I resist a book playing on a Holmes' title, especially when subtitled The Lady Sherlock. So, how did A Study in Scarlet Women stand up to expectations? It was totally engrossing. The central mystery is reminiscent of Doyle's convoluted and obscure mysteries with the added twist that our Holmes can't go into the field and see for himself because he's a she and bound by societal norms of behavior.
Charlotte Holmes is the third daughter of Sir Henry Holmes. Her mother considers her an odd sort of girl who is unlikely to find a man to marry. Of course there is evidence to the contrary as Charlotte has turned down several proposals, all but one of them unknown to her parents. Charlotte is brilliant, observant, and everything we'd expect a Sherlock Holmes equivalent to be. Her problem is that she's bound by society to a restrictive set of possible life options. She's young and, while highly intelligent, she's not as nearly conversant with societal mores and the nuances of standards as they apply to men vs. women.
Livia Holmes is nearly as clever as Charlotte but a lot more cautious and less troublesome to their parents. Livia and Charlotte often work together, avoiding the tattling of their oldest sister, the wrath of their mother, and the punishments that are the result any nonconformity.
Charlotte Holmes does have a secret life or rather a secret identity known only by her dear friend Lord Ingram "Ash" Ashburton. Ash has acted as a go between, allowing Inspector Robert Treadles of the Metropolitan Police to confer with Sherlock Holmes but never to meet him in person. Insp. Treadles has gained a reputation for his ability to close cases, some of which were closed as a result of insights gained from his consultations with Holmes.
While there is one major mystery that flows throughout the book, there are also a number of smaller mysteries to be solved. Readers are also free to figure out how some of the more famous characters from Doyle's works will be presented in this series. I found myself surprised as we discovered the analogs of Watson, Moriarty, and Mycroft. Some I guessed and some I didn't, but each time it was what I thought of as a good choice.
Because of the necessity of Charlotte to be a step or two removed from the cases that she works on, the book uses shifting points of view characters as well as letters, notes, newspaper items, and telegrams to fill in the information that Charlotte needs. Readers thus have all the clues to solve the crimes, but may not have the specialized background knowledge required to pull those clues together.
I thoroughly enjoyed A Study in Scarlet Women and hope there will be more books following Charlotte Holmes and her new identity as Sherlock Holmes.