First Sentence: The old man had heard of them, of course.
Young Mycroft Holmes is fresh out of Cambridge University, engaged to the beautiful Georgiana Sutton, who was raised in Trinidad, and working for the Secretary of State for War. Holmes’ good friend Cyrus Douglas, a free black also from Trinidad, receives word that the bodies of children are being found drained of blood. Georgiana suddenly departs for her home. Mycroft and Douglas decide to follow, never expecting the danger into which they are sailing.
The book surprises us from the very beginning. The descriptions are atmospheric and mysterious. And what, one might ask, are the douen and the lougarou? Fortunately, we learn the answers quite soon.
The author creates visual descriptions and wonderful metaphors; “Horse and rider moved as if they knew every little knot and turn of Greater London. … All the while they nosed out the cleanest thoroughfares and most deserted byways, as if they and the city were gears in the noblest Swiss watch.” We are presented with exciting, action-filled scenes incorporating the sights, sounds, and smells of London, and given a very clear sense of place and time.
This is no placid Mycroft, but neither is he a particularly effective man of action. What we do see, very early on, are his skills of observation. It is fascinating observing the details of his observations to see to how he reaches his conclusions. Yet, it is a different Mycroft than we’ve known before. He is young, inexperienced and has the weaknesses of youth, but the intellect is there. Douglas is a interesting character and one who one feels could only have been written as well by Abdul-Jabbar. The story of his family is a sad and painful reminder of this country’s history. Douglas, at 10 years older, serves to provide the maturity that Mycroft lacks.
The story has plenty of action, but also provides a lesson in history that certainly isn’t part of any ordinary curriculum. While most of us assume slavery ended after the Civil War, in fact it did not. We also learn the difference between indentured servants and slaves. The plot includes an excellent twist which is very well done and part of a very interesting secondary theme; “He is Prichard’s theory of moral insanity come to life,” he mused. “A human being devoid of the common thread of human decency.”
“Mycroft Holmes” is a fascinating read on so many levels; history, action, and character—with a satisfactory ending. It will be interesting to see whether this becomes a series.
MYCROFT HOLMES (Hist Mys-Mycroft Holmes/Cyrus Douglas-London-1870/Victorian) – VG
Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem and Anna Waterhouse – 1st Holmes book
Titan Books, Sept 2015