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by Kameer Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse
Titan Books, September 2015
336 pages
ISBN: 1783291532

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

If one only considers the Mycroft Holmes known from the Canon as presented by Arthur Conan Doyle, one might be totally gobsmacked to find out that Mycroft was once totally and idiotically in love. Engaged, in fact. He gambles on a race (totally out of character) in order to win money to put towards their eventual home. Of course, being Mycroft, his knowledge enables him to help "his" team win for the first time in 10 years. The bookies, of course, are delighted. Not the losers, some of whom decide to give Mycroft and his friend Cyrus Douglas a trouncing as minor compensation. Again, Mycroft's research pays off and they escape unscathed, except for some excremental damages to their wardrobes.

Cyrus is from Trinidad, and most people assume he is Mycroft's servant because he is black. Cyrus receives word, from various sources, that children are being killed in Trinidad. The locals believe they are being killed by spirits. Cyrus insists he must go back to Trinidad to see what is really happening. He discusses the situation with Mycroft, who (in passing) relays the information to his beloved, Georgianna Sutton, who is also from Trinidad. She is totally unnerved by the news, and insists she, too, must return to the island. Mycroft doesn't understand her actions, but vows to find a way to go with them both. Which he does, being Mycroft.

The two men are surprised to find that Georgiana, contrary to what she had told Mycroft, was not on board the ship. They were also quite surprised to find that there were people on board, at least four, who meant them no good. They were assaulted, at least once, and Holmes suffered indignities above and beyond simple assault. The two men knew who their assailants were, but not who was paying them, or why. This state of affairs continued once they reached Trinidad. More assaults, more dead children, and still no signs of Miss Sutton. Mycroft continues his investigations; he did, after all, train Sherlock in reasoning and deduction.

It has been quite a while since I read the Canon, so my memories of any specifics about Mycroft are few and far between. None of them match the Mycroft first encountered in this novel. The seeds, if not the seedlings, of the Mycroft in the Sherlock Holmes stories are definitely visible by the end of the novel. He is definitely a sadder and wiser man for this trip to Trinidad. If that was the goal of the authors, they certainly met that goal. They also did a good job of presenting the different layers of the various societies in which Mycroft and Cyrus find themselves, and the ramifications those various levels have on each of them. One facet of the novel which varies a good bit from Doyle's vision is the candid representation of race and slavery. Mycroft is, in this vision of Edwardian England, far ahead of his time; Cyrus is easily his best, and perhaps only, friend. Mycroft tries, as much as possible given the times, to treat Cyrus with the same respect and dignity that he would treat anyone else. When this is, as frequently happens, not possible, his does his best to let Cyrus know that it's not what Mycroft would prefer. While this changes one's view of Mycroft, it doesn't change the frequently racist nature of the series penned by a man who was unreflectingly mirroring Edwardian biases. While I'm not totally sure how serious/avid Sherlockians will react to this novel, I enjoyed it. I did not know that retired basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a Sherlockian, and a pretty good one, if this novel is any reflection of his interests.

§ I have been reading and reviewing mystery fiction for over a quarter of a century and read broadly within just about all genres and sub-genres. I have been a preliminary judge for the Malice Domestic/St. Martin’s Press Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Contest for at least 25 years. I live in Northern lower Michigan with my spousal unit, one large cat, and 2 fairly small dogs. My Sherlockian (BSI) nom-de-plume is VR; my license plate is BSI VR

Reviewed by PJ Coldren, March 2016

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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