This is a Young Adult story that reboots the Holmes and Watson story with the great great grandchildren of the original Holmes and Watson: Charlotte Holmes and James (don’t call me Jamie) Watson. They find themselves at the same Vermont boarding school. Watson is an American, raised in London for most of his life and Holmes is a Brit exiled to America for bad behaviour.
It’s a clever idea. The changes in age, gender, country and century prevent Charlotte from being Holmes in a dress and change the dynamic between Holmes and Watson in complex ways.
Although this is a light read, it’s not a soft one. We have drugs and rape and cold-blooded murder. Charlotte is a hard person to like. She’s bright and fierce but so aberrant in her behaviour that she comes off as somewhere between abused child and irredeemable narcissist. Watson is a little brighter than his predecessor but has a problem with anger and a habit of using violence as a problem-solving technique.
The plot reloves around murders that are clearly based on Holmes stories and for which Watson and Holmes are being framed. This provides solid links to the Holmes brand while requiring a modern reinterpretation.
The supporting characters, especially the grown-ups, are paper thin. The school set-up is improbable. The denouement is not entirely convincing.
It’s a fun romp, with flashes of originality, nuggets of insider humour and an unabashed exploitation of the Holmes brand.
I enjoyed myself but I don’t hear the rest of the series calling to me.
I started with the audiobook version but abandoned it in favour of the Kindle version after only half-an-hour. The book has two narrators, Graham Halstead for Jamie Watson and Julia Whelan for Charlotte Holmes. Graham Halstead opened and I never managed to get past his performance. Most of it is fine but his attempts at English accents are not distracting. Not Dick Van Dyke awful but not good enough to match the right accent to the right class.
Of all the wonderful narrators out there wouldn’t it have been possible to find Americans who do English accents as well as Paltrow or Anderson or perhaps take the radical step of using narrators who are actually English?