Mycroft Holmes (2015) by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Anna Waterhouse
Mycroft Holmes is 23 years old and looking to make his mark in the British Government. Currently the secretary to the Secretary of State for War, he hopes to rise higher. His intelligence and acumen would bode well for his hopes. He is also engaged and looks forward to earning enough to afford a home for his bride. Holmes would seem to be your average up-and-coming civil servant....but....
He is a white man who has befriended a black man. Cyrus Douglas, half African and half Indian, born in Trinidad, owns the tobacco shop where Holmes gets his cigars. Not that anyone knows that a black man is so affluent--he has placed a nice, correctly colored couple as "shop keepers" and he appears to all but the most trusted customers as the "hired help." Holmes's fiancée Georgiana also hails from Trinidad, though she is the daughter of a plantation owner. These connections to Trinidad will turn Holmes's world upside down.
Word comes to Douglas from Trinidad that children have been dying. The legend of evil spirits that lure children to their death at the hands of vampiric-like creatures has been revived. Georgiana, a very socially conscious young woman, is alarmed at the reports and insists that she must leave at once for home. Holmes is worried and arranges for reports of unrest to reach his boss and makes it only logical that the Secretary send Holmes as a scout to investigate the situation. He and Douglas set sail immediately and as soon as they are onboard they run into trouble. Holmes is nearly poisoned to death, both men are beaten up, and ritualistic warnings are left in their cabin. Someone doesn't want them to visit the islands...but who could have known they were going?
Things get more intense once they land at Port of Spain. Deaths seem to follow them wherever they go and Douglas's old home is burned to the ground. It isn't long before Holmes, whose mind is even sharper than his younger brother's, discerns the horrible truth behind the deaths of the children as well the more recent murders. But will they be able to put a stop to it before the culprits put a stop to them...permanently?
It took me a little while to reconcile myself to a Mycroft Holmes who is athletic and willing to travel. It seemed absurd to me that the man described by Watson as
"tall and portly, heavily built and massive, there was a suggestion of uncouth physical inertia in the figure, but above his unwieldly frame there was perched a head so masterful in its brow, so alert in its steel-grey, deep-set eyes, so firm inits lips, and so subtle in its play of expression, that after the first glance one forgot the gross body..."
could possibly be teaching Sherlock how to box. And when we meet him in the original Holmes stories, he is unwilling to venture beyond his regular schedule and environs--from home to government offices to club and back again, with very occasional and brief outside adventures with Sherlock. I simply couldn't imagine him actually boarding a ship and taking off for Trinidad. I do hope that Abdul-Jabbar and Waterhouse have a plan to explain when and how Holmes changes from the more adventurous man to the one who only travels in his circumscribed paths. I assume that part of it has to do with his health (he apparently has a groggy heart), but surely there is more to it than that. Or perhaps the unfortunate events of his trip to Trinidad will prove to be the catalyst that will begin his extreme aversion to travel and exertion.
Overall, this is an interesting addition to the Holmesian works. And it is a solid opening to a new series featuring Sherlock's more intelligent, more observant older brother. Good deductions and lots of exciting action make this a page-turner. I would have liked a bit more clues laid down for the reader--but the Holmes brothers do like to keep things up their sleeves. ★★★ and 1/2.
First line: The old man had heard of them, of course everyone on the island had heard of them.
"There are three poisons to sound judgment," he [Douglas] said, "love, hate, and envy. I do not see that you are much in thrall to the latter two, but I do ask that you be careful with the first." (p. 45)
"If there is a moral insanity," he [Sherlock] said in a conspiratorial whisper, they there may be the reverse, a moral sanity, if you will, that comes upon one suddenly, like a fever. In thrall to this moral sanity, Sherwood may have been compelled to come clean. (p. 77)
Last line: And of course, Mrs. Hudson would make a very fine landlady...
Deaths = 9 (Five stabbed; one trampled by a horse; one poisoned; two blown up)