Let me take you back in time, before my book review hiatus (due to my own book!), before Obama left office, before Christmas even, to the day I finally wrote down my feelings about A Study in Charlotte, the first book in the Charlotte Holmes trilogy. I published that review right here on Fangirlish, and then I tried to move on with my life. Until last month, when the sequel was released and I was thrown back to the wolves that live in my gooey insides. Meaning the sequel DESTROYED ME, y’all. Remember how I said I was worried that The Last of August wouldn’t live up to A Study in Charlotte? What a stupid thing to say! Because it did, and then some.
Starting just after the events in A Study in Charlotte, The Last of August finds us in England to begin with. Jamie Watson is at his mother’s flat with Charlotte Holmes, and then they travel to her family estate in Sussex, where things are… palpably tense, to say the least. Something is afoot. Then Charlotte’s favorite uncle disappears after telling them of his undercover dealings with the art thieves of Berlin—notably, the Moriarty family. So Jamie and Charlotte head to Berlin to stay with Milo Holmes, where they team up with August Moriarty to crack the case of some art forgeries and hopefully find Charlotte’s uncle in the process.
Okay, sure, that’s the plot. But there is so much more to this story than that. SO MUCH MORE. I’m going to dive in the best I can without getting too spoilery, so bear with me a little bit here while I talk about different aspects of this book that left a GIANT GAPING HOLE IN MY CHEST WHERE MY HEART IS SUPPOSED TO BE.
First, let’s chat for a bit about the Holmes family and the mystery. Charlotte drags Jamie to Berlin to look for her Uncle Leander, who also happens to be Jamie’s father’s best friend and former college roommate. Because of this, Jamie allows himself to dive into a case that truly has nothing to do with him, and his dad doesn’t stop him either. But through the whole book, it feels like there’s something that Charlotte and Milo and August know that they’re not sharing with Jamie, and therefore, us as readers. It made me keep reading, because I knew we’d eventually find out. And when we do… OH MY GOSH. I can’t (and won’t) talk about it here, because of spoilers. But lord, Charlotte is too smart for her own good, and I HAVE NO IDEA IF THEY’RE GOING TO BE OKAY.
Second, did you notice I just casually slipped in the name August Moriarty up there twice? I’m going to assume you’ve read the first book if you’re reading this review (if you haven’t, what in the world are you doing?? Go read the first book!), so you must know that this is significant, because August is supposed to be dead. Everyone thinks he’s dead, except he’s not—it’s revealed at the end of the first book that he’s been working for Milo all this time. He’s in this tragically complicated place where he’s stuck in Milo’s tower because his family thinks he’s dead, and when he and Charlotte come face to face again, it’s electric. And Jamie is so jealous that my heart broke for him repeatedly throughout the book. REPEATEDLY. Nevermind that August and Charlotte were both raised in the same messed-up way, nevermind that part of what Charlotte likes about Jamie is that he’s a breath of fresh air away from her crazy family. He’s still jealous, and that kills me. It kills me every time. What did I love about all of this, though? It makes Jamie an unreliable narrator. It leaves us as readers in a place where we don’t really know what August’s motivations are. We don’t know what he wants—is Jamie paranoid for assuming he wants to be with Charlotte still, or is that what’s really happening. It’s fascinating, and Brittany Cavallaro (again!) wrote this so so well.
Last, did you think I’d get out of this review without discussing the previously ambiguous relationship between Jamie and Charlotte that I talked about in the review of the first book? Ha. It’s all I want to talk about because it’s all I can think about. And I repeat, I WILL GO DOWN WITH THIS SHIP. There are so many nuances in this second book that weren’t in the first, because of character and relationship growth, mostly, but also because the threats are mostly not directly aimed at them this time, so there’s more room for them to think and breathe and figure themselves out. Jamie wants Charlotte. There is no question about that. He jumps out of a moving car to be with her, he fights a concrete slab of a man to protect her. He kisses her. He holds her. And she oscillates back and forth in such a frustrating way, except the frustration is all in Charlotte’s head, because it’s PTSD. That is never explicitly named in the book, but that’s what’s happening. Charlotte is constantly stuck in a state where she sees her rapist when someone touches her, even Jamie. So she pushes him away and then pulls him back and then pushes him away again. Have I said that this book is heartbreaking yet? BECAUSE MY HEART IS IN A MILLION PIECES. There is a scene near the end, where Charlotte is caring for Jamie after he’s been beaten to a pulp, where she finally gets out of her head for a little bit. That scene both gave me life and stole my breath. Brittany Cavallaro is SO GOOD.
Plus, there are a couple chapters from Charlotte’s POV and they are THE BEST.
And now? Now I have to wait almost a full year to get some peace. Because I already know this book is going to haunt me in this way that might taint my feelings about all other books I read until I get a dang ending. [Insert heavy sigh here.]
A Study in Charlotte was a Target book club pick for January 2017 and is available where books are sold. The Last of August is also available where books are sold. The unnamed final installment in the trilogy will be released in early 2018 (hopefully).