A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
What is a Victorian woman of good breeding to do who has no desire to enter into matrimony? Charlotte Holmes takes rather desperate measures, ruining her chances at marriage by purposefully being caught in the act with a married man. While everyone else stares aghast at her ruination, she gets to work, pursuing the avenues open to her to support herself. With a bit of luck, she comes across a woman looking for a ladies' companion who is appreciative of Charlotte's sharp wit and otherworldly observation and deduction skills. Soon, the two of them hatch a plan to impersonate the great Sherlock Holmes, pretending he is Charlotte's brother and is ill in another room. People come to them with mysteries and conundrums, and soon their little budding detective agency is flourishing.
A trio of unexpected deaths, all brushed off as freak natural occurrences come their way, and Charlotte has a personal stake in their resolution, as she and her sister are blamed for causing them. Can she use her powers of deduction to save both of them? With these cases, she has jumped in at the deep end- will she sink or will she swim?
As a lover of period murder mysteries, I knew this series would be right up my alley. It was a lot of fun, but is not unseating any of my favorites from the top of my list. Charlotte is very well written and is fascinating, fun, witty, strong, and interesting. There were some details that were, perhaps purposely, left obtuse, such as where is the real Sherlock Holmes, and what is he going to do when he finds out a pair of women are impersonating him? Maybe the answer is revealed in subsequent books, but I found that the author simply wanted me to accept Charlotte's impersonation in this book, and I struggled with that a little bit. Also, the cast of characters was quite large and I had a hard time keeping most of them straight, but the main characters were well delineated. All in all, if you have a love of period murder mysteries, I'd recommend this one (although my favorite Sherlock spin-off series will always be the Mary Russell mysteries by Laurie R. King).