Top positive review
Continuing a Journey I'm Not Sure I Want to Be On
Reviewed in the United States on January 10, 2020
Mycroft & Sherlock: The Empty Birdcage is the 3rd book by Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse, following the adventures of Mycroft Holmes, his little brother Sherlock, his best friend Cyrus Douglas, and his carriage driver Huan. This newest episode follows two separate but connected cases, this time pursued by 2 pairs of sleuths: Mycroft and Cyrus help out the Lin family from the second book while Sherlock and Huan pursue a serial killer. I loved this latest offering, more than the second, and hope there is much more to come.
It's easy to fall into these books and forget the man who Mycroft Holmes becomes. Arthur Conan Doyle's Mycroft Holmes is described as a better deductionist than his brother, a portly bachelor, an antisocial who helped found the Diogenes Club where no one talks, and someone who walks the same route to work every day. Abdul-Jabbar and Waterhouse's Mycroft began as a sociable and fit young man, optimistic to the extent that he was engaged to be married, and one who pursues his work with enthusiasm and positivity. And it is in remembering Doyle's Mycroft and watching the tragedies, disappointments, and challenges that young Mycroft faces, we see, painful by painful step, how he becomes Doyle's Mycroft. We get to see him develop his hard shell and how that affects his loved ones and his behavior towards them, we see him become more disillusioned. If you're paying attention to all that, it's pretty depressing.
I'd love to dive into how Mycroft becomes more Sherlock-ish, on how he manages his relationship with his brother, on how he mismanages his friendship with Cyrus, but I want you to enjoy it for yourself. As with so many writers who have taken Doyle's work and built on it, Abdul-Jabbar and Waterhouse do justice to Doyle's books and characters, especially with regard to Sherlock's case, but take it one step further by including all the emotions that Doyle shied away from, The telling of these tales also reflects Doyle's practice of ending books when the case ends, not lingering on what happens afterwards to the characters we care for, as the case was never about them.
If you're reading this review, you probably read the first two books. If you enjoyed those, you'll enjoy this.
Two final thoughts: (1) Huan was Sherlock's first Watson. And I love that. (2) Cyrus is a black man living in a white man's world, a notable success in his original career, seeking success in a new field where success is not so easily defined, a thoughtful humanitarian, a firm believer in justice, and well-trained in martial arts. That's Kareem!