Rated Reads

A Study in Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock, book 1)

by Sherry Thomas

Rated: Moderate

What if Sherlock Holmes was actually a woman, named Charlotte? And what if that woman wanted to be able to live her life on her own terms, and not just be a wife? She might deliberately have relations with a former suitor, thus making herself undesirable for marriage, according to the dictates of Victorian society. In Charlotte Holmes’ case, however, her plan to avoid marriage doesn’t go quite as she had hoped, and she’s facing a future of being banished to live forever in a guest house at her family’s country estate, rather than being given the opportunity to work for a living.

Even as Charlotte is trying a new tack to gain independence, the mother of the man she slept with dies. A week or so before that, another woman from the same social circles had died. And then a gentleman who is the younger brother of a nobleman in the city dies of an apparent overdose of chloral. Sherlock Holmes writes a letter to the coroner investigating the death, indicating a connection among all three and intimating the deaths could be murder.

Word had already made way among certain circles about the uncanny ability of Holmes to solve mysteries just by thinking through the facts. The new observations about the series of deaths cause much more interest, and Holmes’ suggestions for detectives to get to the truth fascinate the public.

As Charlotte finds her way, she may even be able to do something she enjoys and which challenges her — use her “unique talents” to solve others’ problems, and even murders that touch a little too close to home.

I probably wouldn’t have read this book had I not absolutely adored Sherry Thomas’ fantasy YA series The Elementals. But I wanted to sample Thomas’ other work, so I pounced on this new novel. It’s a fairly entertaining alternate telling of Sherlock Holmes, which isn’t original — many others have found ways to put a spin on that legendary character — but I had a good time with it. For those who are looking, as I was, for more like The Elementals, this probably won’t scratch the itch, and the mystery itself is not only not the focus of the story (Charlotte’s situation and “becoming” Sherlock is a larger part of the story) but isn’t a really engrossing one. I may or may not read the next in the series.

Rated: Moderate. There’s hardly any language, and violence is minimal (poisoning is all that happens in the way of deaths). Sexual content isn’t detailed, but there are a number of references to sex in the characters’ lives, as it relates to adultery, mistresses, etc. Charlotte doesn’t really share the attitudes about sex that her Victorian associates do, and she embarks on an encounter just to achieve an end. There are a few somewhat vulgar references. A part of the story involves some disturbing sexual behavior but it’s only alluded to.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • A Study in Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock, book 1)
  • by Sherry Thomas
  • Rated: Moderate
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: