Mycroft Holmes

By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Anna Waterhouse

(Titan, $25.99, 336 pages)

Who is this author?

I’m betting that ALL of you, sports fans or not, know who Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is. The basketball all-star who played for the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers is the all-time leading NBA scorer and a literal giant – he’s 7’ 2” – of the game. But did you know that he has written several well-regarded books? They include the children’s book, What Color is My World, the military history  Brothers in Arms and the black history book On the Shoulders of Giants. Abdul-Jabbar also is a a U.S. cultural ambassador and, more to the point here, a major fan of the Sherlock Holmes books.

Anna Waterhouse is a screenwriter and script consultant. They teamed up to produce a TV documentary version of On the Shoulders of Giants that won NAACP and Telly awards.

What is this book about?

In Abdul-Jabbar’s tale, savvy Sherlock has an even smarter older brother, Mycroft. A Victorian-era graduate of prestigious Cambridge University, he begins a successful career in the British government, assisting its Secretary of State for War. Mycroft also has connections with Trinidad, where his best friend Cyrus Douglas, an African by heritage, was born and where his beloved wife-to-be, Georgiana Sutton, grew up. Then comes word of strange and menacing doings on the island: people disappear and mysterious footprints appear. They may be the traces of evil spirits called douen, who lead children to even more evil spirits called lougarou who kill them and drink their blood. Georgiana heads to Trinidad and Mycroft and Cyrus follow her into the dangerous web of disappearances and death. This frightening adventure sets Mycroft on the path to founding the Diogenes Club and becoming a secret player in the British government.

Why you’ll like it:

There’s great fun in reading fiction that takes a familiar character and expands his or her world, and it’s also enjoyable to read a story written by someone who has made a legendary career in one field and then branches out successfully into a totally new and unrelated endeavor. In Mycroft Holmes, you get both, and both are done very well. Lame puns about towering intellect and slam dunks aside, this book would be worthy of your time even if its authors were heretofore unknown.

What others are saying:

“Basketball legend Abdul-Jabbar makes his triumphant adult fiction debut with an action yarn that fills in the backstory of Sherlock Holmes’s older and smarter brother, Mycroft. In 1870, the 23-year-old Mycroft, who has a reputation as a daredevil, is serving as a secretary at the War Office when word reaches London of a series of unusual deaths in Trinidad. Someone, or some thing, has been killing children and draining their blood. The locals believe the culprits are supernatural beings known as lougarou, who drain children of their blood, and douen, who leave highly unusual footprints near their victims. The tragic news stuns Mycroft’s fiancée, Georgiana Sutton, who immediately sails home to Trinidad. Disobeying her request to stay behind, Mycroft follows Georgiana to Trinidad, where he must exercise his intellect and his innate diplomatic skills to solve the crimes and remain alive. Sherlockians who relish the screen adventures of Cumberbatch and Downey will be particularly entertained,” says Publishers Weekly’s  starred review.

In its starred review, Booklist says: “Abdul-Jabbar, a Holmesian since his college days, joins forces with Waterhouse to offer a rousing mystery starring Sherlock’s older (and smarter) brother, Mycroft, a rising star in the British government. The action begins in 1870 London but quickly moves to Trinidad, where Mycroft’s closest friend, Cyrus Douglas, a native of the island, must travel to investigate what some believe is an infestation of douen—tiny supernatural characters who lead children into the clutches of werewolf-like lougarou. Mycroft joins his friend for the trip, and what the two find on arrival—after a near-fatal ocean crossing—isn’t supernatural but far more harrowing… The authors hit all the right notes here, combining fascinating historical detail with rousing adventure, including some cleverly choreographed fight scenes and a pair of protagonists whose rich biracial friendship, while presented realistically, given the era (Douglas must sometimes pose as a butler), is the highlight of the book. Yes, Douglas is a sort-of Watson, but a much brighter, more physical, more bantering version, an equal not a foil. Mystery fans will be eager to hear more from this terrific duo, who may well develop into a gaslit version of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser and Hawk.”

“Clear space on your new fiction shelf for this slam-dunk of a debut novel. Cowritten by NBA all-star and author Abdul-Jabbar and screenwriter and producer ­Waterhouse, the team behind the NAACP and Telly Award–winning documentary On the Shoulders of Giants, this latest collaboration brings a fresh voice and broadened scope to the Holmes canon. Historical fiction and mystery fans will be the first to demand this title, but its mass appeal is undeniable,” says Library Journal in its starred review.

Says Esquire: “The erudite Jabbar has managed to weave elements of his far flung interests into a fascinating mystery narrative. The briskly written book has a delicate woven plot that brings together such diverse elements as Trinidadian culture and folklore, the tobacco importation business in London,  and the usual Holmesian array of brightly obtuse knowledge and libertine philosophy that Sherlock fans enjoy— not to mention a plot that involves an elaborate scheme to bring slavery back to the Caribbean. By far the star of the novel is Holmes’ able accomplice Douglas—as compared to Watson, Douglas is portrayed as an equal instead of a foil. The careful dance of the friendship between the two men of different races, complicated by the laws and conventions of the era, is fascinating.”

“That’s right: nonpareil basketball player Abdul-Jabbar, who’s already written memoirs, nonfiction titles, and children’s books, partners with screenwriter Waterhouse to introduce a prequel to the adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ smarter brother.

Says Kirkus Reviews:  “Back in 1870, when Sherlock is still an indifferent student at the Royal College of St. Peter, his older brother, a little wet behind the ears at 23, serves as secretary to Edward Cardwell, the Secretary of State for War, and looks forward to his marriage to Georgiana Sutton, a perfect English rose born in Port of Spain. His plans are knocked sideways by the hushed news from his Trinidadian friend and associate Cyrus Douglas that a lougarou, as the islanders call werewolves, has been draining the blood of young children and causing mass disappearances of their elders. Booking passage aboard the Sultana for Trinidad, the two men swiftly find themselves immersed in an unholy scheme by a ring of freelance entrepreneurs to revive a horror recently and traumatically abolished in the Americas. Even more disturbingly, every new development in the adventure, which eventually leads the visitors to the Sacred Order of the Harmonious Fists, seems to point unerringly to well-placed government functionaries and protectors and implicate someone close to Mycroft himself as a conspirator.

The central conceit is audacious; Mycroft’s sense of moral outrage is nicely reflective of the era; the historical detail is solid; and the period decorum is well-maintained throughout. Only the characters and their cumbersome individual interactions are muffled by all the grade-A trappings.”

When is it available?

Finding this book is no mystery: it’s at the Downtown Hartford Public Library and its Ropkins branch.

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