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The Last of August: 03/26/17

The Last of August by by Brittany Cavallaro

The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro is the second book in the Charlotte Holmes series. Though it's set in Germany, rather than Switzerland, the title pretty much confirms that this will be a nod to "The Final Problem." I think it's an unspoken requirement among pastiche writers that the story which created the infamous fandom revolt that ultimately gave Sherlock Holmes his immortality must be paid homage to.

In most pastiches, there is a very small cast of regulars (besides Sherlock's "Irregulars"). There is Sherlock, Dr. Watson (James or John), Professor James Moriarty in the top three spot. Important supporting characters are Mrs. Hudson, Mycroft Holmes, and Mary Watson. That's the extent of roster.

Brittany Cavallaro has imagined a present day where the main three were the founding members of three families, destined to continue the roles of their forefathers. Over the years with many children in each generation the relationship of the three families has gotten somewhat muddied — so that not all Moriarties are evil. Not all Holmes are cold, inductive, nor are all Watsons happy to be biographers and doctors. But enough of them are to the point that everyone assumes that everyone else is as their family name implies.

This book, thankfully includes carefully drawn family trees for the Holmes and Moriarty families. As there is a lot of interaction between the two in The Last of August, knowing who's who is important. On a humorous side note, Charlotte has provided annotations to the trees, offering Watson as the mother of the Holmes family tree. It would explain why everyone is somewhat squicked at the budding romance between Charlotte and Jaimie.

Like A Study in Charlotte there is a lot going on here. There isn't a single central mystery. Instead there are three: Uncle Leander has gone missing, someone has poisoned Charlotte's mother, and someone is selling forgeries of artwork last seen when confiscated by the Nazis. All of these mysteries are related but how they are isn't immediately obvious.

It's a complex book that balances the YA romance parts with a story of the current generation being torn apart by decades of expectations and rivalries. Tragedies are bound to repeat themselves because no one is willing to let the traditions die.

Four stars

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