A Study in Scarlet Women: First in the Lady Sherlock Series. Sherry Thomas. Penguin Publishing Group. October 2016. 336 pp. ISBN#: 9780425281406.
Charlotte Holmes is a very bright woman who is highly observant of minuscule details that escape the normal person. She’s determined not to marry and just wants to get some education and become head of a school. That just doesn’t fit in with her Victorian world but she couldn’t care less. When her father changes his mind and denies her the dream of a future, she causes a scandal and runs away. Surprisingly, she hasn’t realized her dire situation, even though she thinks about what it means, until she’s almost out of money and can’t get a job because of her scandalous reputation that has quickly spread around London. Meanwhile, three deaths occur close to her home and her sister and family are blamed, bringing complete ostracism from society. Charlotte is determined to get to the bottom of the deaths!
Eventually Charlotte, her friend Lord Ingram and Inspector Robert Treadles, take her advice, supposedly given by the “real” Sherlock Holmes, a step at a time and the reader will be shocked at the eventual outcome. Meanwhile, a new friend who has reached out to Charlotte suggests she advertise her skills of “discernment” and make that her career to earn the money she needs. Lo and behold, she is stunned by the number of requests she receives, and her sharp-mindedness and intuitive sense guide many a riddle or crime into satisfactory solutions.
What is quite interesting is that solving the death of the three supposedly unrelated characters turns out to be not only clever but a bit anticlimactic. What keeps the story moving is a budding romance between Charlotte and Lord Ingram, the latter of whom has a few secrets of his own associated with “watching over” Charlotte. This very much fits in the with the noble Victorian mores of never allowing a woman to be left alone in danger but introduces a few hints of Charlotte missing the boat and thus introducing a wee lack of credibility on her part.
Charlotte is an enigmatic character indeed! On the one hand, she’s definitely got the “Sherlock” clues in hand; yet she can be incredibly naïve about her own circumstances. Certainly she has a prodigious appetite which she guides only by observing whether she’s coming close to a double chin or more. One senses that other appetites will develop now that she and Lord Ingram may, should fortune favor them so, become closer. However, that’s a problem that will have to await another novel in the series.
All in all, A Study in Scarlet Women… is a good read that will please may fans of mystery fiction.