One of many things I love about books is that there can be so many reasons to pick and choose a particular one to read. Favorite authors and best-seller lists are likely among the most common reasons, with recommendations and a subject matter of interest probably not far behind. But the most interesting occurrence is when there is just something so compelling about a book that you really just need to pick it up and find out what it’s all about. Often that’s how one discovers unexpected hidden gems as well.
Such was my experience with Mycroft Holmes. When I saw that it was co-written by none other than basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, I jumped at the chance to read it. Now as a Michael Jordan/Bulls fan, you might think that this particular author might detract from the book for me, but I’ve always worn my sports loyalties as celebrations of my favorites rather than hatred for their rivals.
I was also intrigued to learn that this was not the NBA’s all-time leading scorer’s first book by any means. He has ten others: a couple of biographies, a few historical works, and some children’s stories, but Mycroft Holmes is his first novel. Apparently Kareem has long been a huge Doyle fan and liked to employ Sherlock’s powers of observation to enhance his game. So he decided to try his own hand at adding to these stories, co-writing Mycroft with Anna Waterhouse, who has worked with Abdul-Jabbar on previous projects.
For this first novel, the duo has decided to eschew to more famous younger brother Sherlock in order to provide us with some back story on the elder brother Mycroft. The tale is set while Sherlock is still studying at university and Mycroft is just beginning his ascent to a position of power in the British government. Mycroft’s best friend Cyrus Douglas has learned disturbing news of the murder of children in his native Trinidad. The deaths appear to have been caused by evil spirits luring the children to their deaths. When Mycroft’s fiancée Georgiana, who is also from the island, hears the news, she abruptly leaves London to return to her family in Port of Spain. Worried and confused, Mycroft convinces Douglas to take him to Trinidad to find his beloved and unravel the mystery of the killings.
Mycroft is a lively and engrossing tale and is a worthy addition to the Holmes dossier. The authors did well to set the primary location outside of London, both for the added layer of the exotic and because London seems to be more Sherlock’s domain. It also set the backdrop for one of the most interesting aspects of the book – the contrast between Mycroft and Sherlock. The authors’ premise for the book was to describe events in Mycroft’s past that had shaped the character we encounter in Doyle’s writings. The problems that Mycroft encounters in this adventure cannot be solved fully within the vacuum of individual intellect that Sherlock’s cases could. As a result, Mycroft directs his talents towards directing and influencing the British government.
Mycroft Holmes has added a new wrinkle in the revered Holmes brothers’ fan fiction stories – the loner genius versus the collaborative genius – and the contrast is entertaining as it is illuminating.