A duo becomes a trio and tries to settle family feuds in this relationship-focused crime caper sequel to A Study in Charlotte (2016).
On school break, white teenagers Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson trade Connecticut for the Continent. Raised on the legendary escapades of the original Holmes and Watson, hapless narrator Jamie romanticizes a girl who rejects his affection—à la the works of John Green and Woody Allen—and feels out of his element among the elite. Sober but still scarred by her sexual assault, Charlotte uses the cases of a missing uncle and a poisoned parent to escape to her brother Milo’s high-security Berlin bachelor pad. There, the two gain a partner, August Moriarty—Charlotte’s former tutor, first crush, and alleged homicide victim—whose resurfacing does not fully appease his criminal kin. The forgery subplot, parodied-but-still-pretentious art scene, dark humor, witty dialogue, and action scenes thankfully leaven the relentless relationship drama. Cavallaro expands beyond Doyle’s storylines while still using his characters and their hallmark behaviors, but this second outing somehow feels less original than the series opener. Although characters sometimes skate close to caricature, the young Holmes, Watson, and Moriarty contend with “a metric ton of psychic damage” in a raw and unflinching manner.
This muddled mystery rests on elaborate machinations with disproportionate motivations, but the emotional odyssey should satisfy readers seeking a contemporary, teenage take on the Baker Street pair. (Mystery. 14 & up)