It’s nearly the end of my American Adventure, so my reading at the moment, as I mentioned yesterday, is mostly books I’ve borrowed from the library here. I’m prioritising the pile too – because when I was borrowing books I was targetting books that I find it harder/more expensive to get hold of in the UK, so I’ll be gutted if I have to take some of them back unread. And it also means that for the first time in a few weeks, I had lots of books to choose from for BotW this week, but it was a fairly easy choice – I raced through Sherry Thomas’s A Study in Scarlet Women on Saturday night – and it’s the first in a series. Ideal.
So, A Study in Scarlet Women kicks off the Lady Sherlock series – which as you might guess is a gender-flipped Sherlock Holmes retelling. Charlotte Holmes has never really felt happy with the life expected of a woman in upper class London in the late Victorian era. And when her father reneges on a deal he made with her about her future, she takes matters into her own hands. Unfortunately, that means making herself an outcast – and life as an outcast is harder than she thought. And then there’s a series of deaths that are casting suspicion over the family she has left behind. Soon Charlotte is investigating – under the assumed name of Sherlock Holmes – with the help of a few new friends, and one very old friend who has loved her forever.
I read this in almost one sitting** and it is so good. Charlotte is a brilliant heroine. The analytical mind that serves Sherlock so well creates as whole load of problems for a woman – who isn’t expected to speak up, or demand a life that doesn’t revolve around marriage. Her deductions are clever, the mystery is great – and she’s much more sympathetic than Proper Sherlock is – she’s motivated by helping her family and her friends in a lot of what she does, not just the mystery solving. Just a note though I’ve seen this categorized as a romance – which I think isn’t quite right. I first head about it on the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books podcast and Sherry Thomas does also write romances, but for me this is definitely Historical Mystery with a side order of unresolved romance and sexual tension. Don’t go expecting a resolution/Happy Ever After here.
Side note, I was listening to that edition of Smart Bitches after a night shift on the way back to where I was staying, and the combination of lack of sleep, going to a different station to where I was used to heading to from Waterloo station and being engrossed in this saw me in autopilot mode and getting on the wrong train and ending up in Richmond and not in Barnes. I have a vivid memory of sitting on the platform at Richmond, freezing cold, watching it get light, waiting for a train back the other way and listening to Sherry Thomas talking about learning English as a second language through the medium of 70s and 80s historical romance novels!
Anyway, back to the book, if you like series like Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell or Lady Julia Grey, Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily – or even some of the interwar-set detective series like Daisy Dalrymple, Phryne Fisher, Dandy Gilver or Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness – then definitely give this a try, even if you’re not usually into Sherlock retellings. And if you are a Sherlock fan, then definitely take a look at this.
My copy came from the library*, but you should be able to get your hands on this fairly easy. It’s available in Kindle and Kobo as well as in paperback from all the usual suspects. You might need to order it in though. I already have the second book on loan from the library, and I’ve ordered the third to take home with me even though I have limited space in my luggage home.
*Although I’ve since found it on my Kindle where I picked it up on offer for £1.49 last summer and then it got lost in the shuffle of books. Insert comment about the state of my tbr pile here.
**I moved from the sofa to bed about halfway through, but ended up staying up late to finish it.