My problem is, I read books and then I forget to review them.
I don’t remember where I discovered Mycroft Holmes any more, but I do recall the thought process that went into purchasing it: “Huh. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote an historical mystery? About Mycroft Holmes, of all people? Sure, I’ll check that out.”
I made a good decision.
The book finds Mycroft (Sherlock Holmes’ older, canonically smarter, brother) preparing to ask a woman’s hand in marriage, involved in politics up to his eyeballs, and aware of the injustices perpetrated by the white ruling classes against others in London. (Aware, but not self-aware.) He is good friends with many people, has his fingers in many pies, and shares his younger brother’s arrogant ways (though is socially conscious enough to raise fewer eyebrows about it). One of his friends is Cyrus Douglas, a man described as a “…black man, his skin the color of cinnamon…” and who at first appears to the reader to be a servant (a misapprehension caused by Mycroft’s actions, and quickly proven incorrect by the narrative). When Douglas forgets himself, and treats Mycroft in a more “chummy” manner, the two of them very nearly get into a bout of fisticuffs. In the end, Mycroft’s knowledge of London and her inhabitants saves both of them from a beating or worse.
Which, of course, means that the body of the story takes place far from London; on the island of Trinidad, where the douen and the loupgarou have destroyed a town, and where Mycroft and Douglas discover someone is trying to revitalize the slave trade. Just who, and how and why, leads them far from Mycroft’s domain of comfort and deep into Douglas’.
Douglas rose to his feet. A few long strides, and he was inches from Holmes. “
He had breath in him once,” he declared. “He is to be treated with respect, no matter the cost.”
“Now is not the time for empty ritual,” Holmes thundered.
“Now is precisely the time!” Douglas thundered back. “When we ourselves are empty, it is the ritual that turns us human again.” – Kindle Loc 2563
Overall, I thought this book was quite good; expect it to be more Douglas’ story than Mycroft’s once the men reach the islands. The writing is strong and the characters solidly characterized. Each adds their own piece to the plot, and the story explores more than just the mystery at its heart. The ending was satisfying, and I have to say I’m hoping Abdul-Jabbar will write more in this universe, whether from Douglas’ point of view or Mycroft’s I care not one whit. The writing was occasionally sparse but very fluid, and it was always clear to me whose “head” I was in at any given time because the mens’ voices were very distinctive.
Sometimes, when I pick up something because my brain went “huh, that looks interesting” it turns out to be an unmitigated disaster. This one, though, was exactly what I hoped it would be: a page-turning mystery.