Sunday, September 10, 2017

Book Review: 'Mycroft Holmes' by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's "Mycroft Holmes," co-authored by Anna Waterhouse, focuses on Sherlock Holmes's older brother, twenty-three year old Mycroft. He is a graduate of Cambridge and works for Britain's Secretary of State for War. It is 1870, and Mycroft is engaged to Georgiana Sutton, "the prettiest, most intelligent, kindest woman in the world." He is taken aback, however, when his fiancée announces that she plans to set sail for Trinidad, where her parents own a sugar plantation. With permission from his employer, Mycroft decides to follow her, accompanied by his close friend, Cyrus Douglas, a black man who also has family in Trinidad. Douglas is concerned about reports from his native land that quite a few locals have vanished and that someone has been murdering young children. Cyrus and Mycroft embark on a hazardous journey that "might not be destined to end at all well."

Little do these comrades realize that they are pawns in a high-stakes conspiracy conceived by people who will do anything to keep their despicable actions from coming to light. By the time Holmes and Douglas realize what they are up against, they may be too physically and mentally wrung out to take on their ruthless antagonists. Jabbar throws a great deal into the mix: demons, economic inequality, racism, betrayal, and violence galore. People are shot at, stabbed, trampled on, poisoned, and beaten to a pulp. Sixteen-year-old Sherlock, Mycroft's younger brother, is on hand for several brief but memorable appearances. He is already developing keen powers of observation, a dislike for the companionship of his peers, and a fascination with "the gruesome and the macabre."

A complicated and unfocused plot that is heavy on histrionics weighs down the narrative. By the time this ponderous story reaches its finale, Mycroft has confronted morally bankrupt individuals who are "devoid of the common thread of human decency." A much sadder and less naïve Holmes emerges from his painful exploits better prepared to face the future. Although this work of fiction has its share of excitement, suspense, and fascinating historical details, the stilted, long-winded, and heavy-handed writing keeps "Mycroft Holmes" from earning more than a marginal recommendation.

Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right