Friday, December 25, 2015

Mycroft Holmes, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (author), Anna Waterhouse (author), Damian Lynch (narrator)

Audible Studios, September 2015

Sherlock Holmes famously said that his elder brother Mycroft had powers of observation greater than his own. This story is set decades earlier, in the early 1860s, when Mycroft is just twenty-three and secretary to the Secretary of War, and Sherlock is still in his teens.

Mycroft is in love with and engaged to the beautiful Georgiana Sutton, daughter of a prosperous sugatr cane planter in Trinidad. He is saving his money to buy their first house, and in the meantime advancing his career and spending as much free time with her s they decently can.

He also has a friend, Cyrus Douglas,, black man from Trinidad. Douglas is older, about forty, and is, or appears to be, a clerk in an especially good tobacconist's shop. It's not long before we learn that in fact Cyrus is the owner, employing the apparent owners to keep up appearances and avoid the problems that plague businesses known to be black-owned.

Into this idyllic time comes news from Douglas's contacts back home in Trinidad that children are dying and men disappearing--apparently due to demons and a monster called a loup garou, which in the folklore of this fictional Trinidad is not a werewolf but a giant mosquito that can drain children of their blood. Douglas doesn't really believe this, but he does believe that children are dying, and is determined to find out what's going on. Mycroft, of course, is even more convinced the deaths must be human-caused, not supernatural. When Mycroft takes the seemingly obvious step of asking Georgiana what she's heard from her family, she first denies that they've reported anything unusual. Later, after he's told her that children have died, she is clearly shocked and distressed, and says they have mentioned something about it, she had not wanted to believe, but now has decided she must go home to find out for herself.

She's absolutely opposed to Mycroft interrupting his career to come with her.

Douglas is also going home to investigate, and he too thinks Mycroft should stay, but when Mycroft engineers an assignment to investigate possible unrest among the Creoles of Trinidad, he's willing to cooperate and travel together with him.

Trouble and danger plague them even on the ship, but it's nothing to compare to the profound evil they find in Trinidad, in the form of a dangerous international plot. Heartbreak and disillusion await Mycroft, and a major change in the direction of his life--assuming Mycroft even survives what he'll encounter.

I was really skeptical about this book, because celebrity authors rarely mean anything good, and the Holmes mythos has been so heavily mined already. Mycroft Holmes is a pleasant surprise, with a fast-paced, complex plot grounded in the history of the period, and complex, developed characters who think and breathe and feel--and grow and change over the course of the book. If Abdul-Jabbar and Waterhouse write more Mycroft mysteries, I'll be delighted to see them.

Recommended.

I received a free copy of the audiobook from Audible.com in exchange for an honest review.