MYCROFT HOLMES

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Submitted Date 06/24/2020
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Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse (Titan Books, 2015)

It is with a melancholy heart that I report my local library has not yet reopened. I have a great love of libraries and, although I understand staying closed is the responsible move on their part, seeing their shut doors depresses me. Where else can you go spend an afternoon without having to pay a dime, without someone trying to shove you aside to make room for new customers, and have access to so many wonderful means of escape? For a while, it was my makeshift office; where I went to concentrate on my work without the distractions at home.

It was during one such afternoon that I stumbled upon the book, Mycroft Holmes. In the interest of full disclosure, I really like Sherlock Holmes in just about any incarnation. I'm also a frequent consumer of mysteries, from cozies to the old Chandler and Hammett noir books. The vivid red color of Mycroft Holmes's cover, adorned with chains and manacles, caught my eye first. Then, there was the author: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I'm not much of a basketball fan, but I certainly know that name. Even though he's one of the sport's legends, I remember him best for his appearance in Bruce Lee's movie, Game of Death. Try to fight a guy with a reach like that!

Still, I thought, could a Sherlock Holmes story written by a basketball player be any good? My interest was piqued. To be fair, Abdul-Jabbar didn't write the book alone. Anna Waterhouse is the co-author. Hers was not a name I was familiar with, but she worked with Kareem before, as co-writer of the documentary On the Shoulders of Giants. Most of her portfolio lists her accomplishments as a screenwriter and script consultant.

Although Mycroft's younger brother, Sherlock, does make an appearance in the book, it's not about him. It's the tale of a budding diplomat in his prime before Mycroft becomes the sedentary creature in Doyle's stories. Mycroft has a Watson of sorts, in the character of Cyrus Douglas. This tall man from Trinidad is a connoisseur of brandy and cigars, something that brings the two men together. He is also - lucky for Mycroft - quite handy in a fight.

In Mycroft Holmes, the authors explore a little of why the later Holmes is a confirmed bachelor. He was once, in this incarnation, engaged to a woman named Georgiana. When she catches word of children dying mysteriously in Trinidad, she disappears and Holmes sets about finding out why. Holmes and Douglas board a ship to take them across the Atlantic to the Port of Spain. Their journey is far from a pleasure cruise, thanks to a bit of poison and a gang of ruffians. Once they reach their destination, the search for Georgianna continues, but the hunt for the children's' killer has just begun.

I was quite pleasantly surprised by this book, so much so that I read the two books that follow: Mycroft and Sherlock and Mycroft and Sherlock: The Empty Birdcage. There are a lot of seemingly disconnected events in the story that end up weaving together nicely in the conclusion. I particularly enjoyed Cyrus Douglas as a character, because he gives us a nice counterbalance to Homes's hyper-intelligent eccentricities. He's also a black man living in Victorian-era Britain, who accompanies Mycroft not as a servant but as a trusted companion. There are times when the racism of the era is touched upon, but it's not the main driver of the storyline. I must also confess that, although I consider myself a fairly competent reader, I did not see the resolution to the story coming. I think I was just so absorbed in the tale that I didn't stop to try too hard to figure it out.

As it turns out, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a pretty hardcore Doyle fan and history buff. So, a lot of the events in this story did take place in reality once upon a time. Both authors do a beautiful job of building a compelling story that fits nicely with the mood of the original stories. I'm happy to accept them into my Sherlock fandom and so refreshed to read a tale that doesn't revolve around the enigmatic consulting detective we already know so much about.

 

Here are a couple of resources if you want more on this book:

The publisher's page: https://titanbooks.com/7528-mycroft-holmes/

An interview with Anna Waterhouse: http://deborahkalbbooks.blogspot.com/2016/03/q-with-anna-waterhouse.html

Kirkus review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/kareem-abdul-jabbar/mycroft-holmes/






 

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