Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Anna Waterhouse
There are many ways that we felt that basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar demonstrated his skill as a writer, his familiarity with the Holmes universe, and that he offered a very different (& wonderful) “Watson” with Mycroft’s Trinidadian friend, Cyrus Douglas.
We were taken with the different layers there were to both the story and the characters, and the believable ways their friendship is realistic. We also felt the friendship deepens throughout as they both face danger and personal crises. We liked how Mycroft, being a young 23 year old man, had some growing up to do, as well as getting first hand experiences that widen his world view.
We felt that this was balanced out with Douglas’s mentoring of Holmes leading Cyrus to a deeper understanding of how Mycroft is also conscripted in what he can do at this time to effect change for black people. The Victorian society is rife with change, particularly industrial, but humanistic change is slow to come and they need to adhere to what their perceived roles are. An example of this is how the manly white customers of the tobacco store that the Pennywhistles run, is actually owned by Cyrus. He has to encourage people to assume they own it, because his sales would dwindle if it were known that a black person owned the store.
It frustrates and embarrasses Mycroft that Cyrus has to pretend to be his servant in order to appease fellow passengers. These get set off by the sight of Cyrus on a passenger desk instead of steerage, and when he “presumes” to put a hand on Mycroft’s shoulder. We felt such instances worked with the mystery and that they did not slow down the plot – in fact, it increased the challenges they face.
Bringing in the Chinese population in Trinidad was yet another way to recognize the trials and efforts of a foreign population. We really liked Huan and his friendship with Cyrus that illustrated how minority populations help each other out. I later found that Huan’s group, the Sacred Order of the Harmonious Fists, is likely a nod to the real life group, “The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists” otherwise known as the Boxers.
Still another perspective on slavery is woven into the plot when we met the Merikens. This real life group are the descendants of American slaves who chose to join the British military during the War of 1812 on the hope and chance that they would achieve freedom. Although the British lost, many of these soldiers (also called the Colonial Marines) were offered either employment in the military, or to live free in one of the British holdings in the area. The scene where a young Meriken named Jessup Jones stands up for helping Cyrus and company in the name of freedom really resonated with the group.
This led to discussion of how twisted both Georgiana and her mother’s thinking is about the nature of slavery versus indentured servitude. Their ancestors came to Trinidad as indentured servants, so Georgiana thinks herself as having a slave background. We completely disagreed with her and the repulsive men we learn she is in collusion with as the story progresses. We also felt Mycroft was well rid of her!
We also enjoyed how the finale literally goes off with a bang, and ends with a bit of humor. We can see how Mycroft’s career will really rise after he and Cyrus meet with Queen Victoria.
Members liked Kareem’s use of Trinidad as a setting for a Holmesian story. Not only did it provide a unique background – it inspired our delicious tres leches cake! We learned that this is a treat from Trinidad as well as South America – and we thank these countries for it.
We agreed that when it comes to Abdul-Jabbar’s Mycroft and Cyrus, we’d definitely give their stories more hang(out) time!
And don’t forget – we’re meeting again this month on this Saturday!
We’ll be taking a last look at The Girl on the Train this Saturday, Feb. 25th at 1:30 p.m. in Meeting Room B when we gather to see the movie version starring Emily Blunt (Rachel), Haley Bennett (Megan), and Rebecca Ferguson (Anna). There’ll be popcorn, treats, and further conversation!