As an avid fan of anything basketball- playing, watching, discussing, daydreaming about playing in the NBA’s Celebrity All-Star game- picking a book by the NBA’s all-time leading scorer as my first Cannonball Read seemed like a no-brainer. But Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse’s Mycroft Holmes has as much basketball in it as Donald Trump has class, which is to say, none. However, that doesn’t mean the authors are out of their depth.
Abdul-Jabbar and Waterhouse spin an engaging tale of Sherlock’s older brother embarking on a cross Atlantic journey to get to the bottom of a gruesome mystery; one which somehow involves Mycroft’s beloved, much to his dismay. When tales of evil spirits leading children to their deaths reach Mycroft’s darling London from faraway Trinidad, the young government man finds himself rushing to the Caribbean, chasing after his fiancée Georgiana, who grew up on one of the islands many sugar cane plantations. Luckily for Mycroft, he is accompanied by Cyrus Douglas, his best friend and successful importer/tobacco shop proprietor who, as luck would have it, grew up in Trinidad as well. The journey necessitates a reversal of roles for the two companions. London, the city Mycroft holds so dear, and to which he compares all others, is not only unwelcoming to the dark skinned Douglas but is regularly downright hostile towards the man, looking for any excuse to hurt, maim, or kill a person of African descent. Conversely, on Trinidadian soil Douglas’ skin-tone allows entry into a world Mycroft could never hope to access with his stuffy British airs. The two sleuths must use all their combined knowledge, cunning, and physical gifts to solve a mystery that is ever increasing in both complexity and danger.
The only time I’ve ever read one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock stories was over 15 years ago, and all I can recall is that it involved a hound. And since I’ve only just started the BBC’s Sherlock, I’m not as besotted with the young detective as many seem to be. Die hard Sherlock fans may rest easy however, because not only does Sherlock make more than one appearance in the story, Mycroft can’t seem to go very long without contemplating how his younger brother would criticize his every move. Furthermore, Sherlock fans can take comfort in Mycroft’s deductive reasoning and considerable skills in the detective arts, as well as Mycroft’s Sherlock-Watson relationship with Douglas. Despite these similarities, the unique setting allows a break from the Holmesian tropes I’ve absorbed through cultural osmosis. Trinidad provides a racially diverse cast of characters and a geographic location that intertwines the cultural and economic goings-on of the Caribbean, the British Isles, and the Americas, both North and South.
The book itself is a quick and easy read. The short chapters allow the reader to rip through them effortlessly, like a basketball ripping through the net after one of Abdul-Jabbar’s patented sky-hooks. The story is engaging from the get-go, only becoming more so as the plot thickens. While Mycroft Holmes is neither a Dickensian portrait of social injustice or a thousand-paged tome on the merits of suffering as a means of redemption in the Russian vein, it nevertheless delves into issues of race and class that give the reader something to think about without weighing them down. Most of all, Mycroft Holmes is fun. It’s light enough to be a beach read, but profound enough to stimulate social debate at a progressive book club. I guess you could say recommending this book is a slam-dunk (too much?).