Mycroft Holmes — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Anna Waterhouse

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career has extended well beyond the sphere of his tremendous success as an athlete. He is a regular contributor to Time, has starred in many films (even opposite Bruce Lee!), and has written a number of books, the most recent of which, Mycroft Holmes, written with screenwriter Anna Waterhouse, is excellent.

Audible.com generously supplied a review copy of the audiobook, which I gobbled voraciously.

The narrator, Damian Lynch, was exquisite, and brought to life the multi-ethnic cast of characters with extraordinary skill. His accents were flawless — except perhaps his American, which was a bit cartoonish, but appropriate for its character. His narration was one of the highlights of the experience, and I found myself listening with two sets of ears: one to a great story, and the other to Lynch’s wonderful performance.

The story follows a young Mycroft Holmes, elder brother of Sherlock Holmes, on an adventure from London to Trinidad.

When Cyrus Douglas, friend to Mycroft and purveyor of fine tobaccos, learns of children dying mysteriously on Trinidad, he informs Mycroft, who investigates by asking his fiancée Georgiana, a white woman who grew up on Trinidad, if she has heard anything from her family. Her unexpected response — leaving for Trinidad at once, and refusing to tell Mycroft why — sends Mycroft on a wild chase, exercising every bit of his prodigious intelligence to place himself on the same ship as Georgiana.

The ensuing adventure is exciting in all of the typical ways a Holmesian mystery excites: physical violence, battles of wits, fascinating settings, and twists upon twists. There are a number of things beyond the central plot of Mycroft Holmes, however, that I think bear discussing.

The first is that I think this might be the most solidly structured novel that I’ve read in a very long time. No loose ends, everything accounted for, foreshadowing in all the right places, and red herrings delicately placed. It was remarkable to read, structurally, because of how tidy it was.

The second is that Mycroft Holmes deals with serious issues of race and slavery with tremendous delicacy and achieves a powerful impact. There are moments of raw pain that eclipse the emotional median of the novel, and others that gave me more pause than I’d expect from a “simple” mystery novel. When you read this book, and I highly recommend that you do — better yet, why don’t you head over to Audible and pick it up — look out for those moments. They’re sprinkled throughout the whole novel, and they transform a good story into a great book.

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