Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

A few weeks ago I was reorganizing my unread pile and discovered I had several books inspired by or otherwise related to the character of Sherlock Holmes. So I decided to make February a (mostly) Sherlock themed month. The third one in my queue was Mycroft Holmes by NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse. In this Sherlock related book, the detective on the case is Sherlock’s older brother, Mycroft Holmes. 
Product DetailsMycroft’s friend, Cyrus Douglas and Mycroft’s fiancĂ©e, Georgiana Sutton both happen to be from Trinidad, though from different sides of the island. Both Douglas and Sutton hear rumors about mysterious deaths of children in their home country. Locals fear the killer is supernatural. Neither Douglas nor Georgiana believe the supernatural excuse, and for that matter, neither does Mycroft. Nevertheless, Georgiana immediately bolts for home, insisting that she must go alone and find out what's going on. Before Mycroft can stop her Georgiana is gone. Mycroft decides to follow her, convincing Douglas to go with him. Almost as soon as the two men set foot on the ship that is to carry them to Trinidad, Douglas and Mycroft are attacked. Someone doesn’t want them poking their noses around in Trinidad.

I read this book for character more than plot. I wanted to know more about Mycroft. Let me pause here and admit that I am no expert on the character of Sherlock Holmes. Although I have read about half of the original tales by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, my frame reference comes primarily from the BBC series Sherlock. When I think of Mycroft, I think of Sherlock’s smarter, older brother with the non-specified but very important government job. Here, Sherlock isn’t yet brilliant and Mycroft isn’t yet very important. Mycroft is, however, much happier and well-adjusted than his younger brother. I mean, he’s engaged for goodness sake. Can you imagine Sherlock ever marrying? I think not.

My favorite part of Mycroft Holmes was Cyrus Douglas – a strong, smart Black man in 19th century England. He’s not Watson; he’s better. He is not as in awe of Mycroft as Watson is of Sherlock. Douglas has a life, a history, and a viable business apart from Mycroft. The two seem like equals in a way that Sherlock and Watson often don’t. In terms of plot, overall this was a pretty good mystery. If Abdul-Jabbar and Waterhouse right another Holmes and Douglas mystery I'd read it.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Good Behavior by Blake Crouch

Good Behavior It's not that I've been reading bad books. The books I have been reading have been awesome, but Blake Crouch's Good Behavior is the first book I've read in a while that I really didn't want to put down. Seriously I read this book anytime I had a spare moment. I read standing on street corners while waiting for the walk signal to change in my favor, at an author signing while waiting to take a picture with the author, on the bus - you get the idea. Good Behavior had me from page one. But let me rewind a bit...

The cable channel TNT has been knocking it out of the park lately with all kinds of interesting new programming. One of their new shows is, or was, Good Behavior. It began airing in November 2016. I know it is now February 2017 but understand that in addition to the pile of books sitting in the corner of my apartment waiting to be read, there is also a slew of TV shows and movies saved on my DVR waiting to be watched. I am always behind. Anyway, the television series was fantastic. If a fantastic TV series is based on a book, of course I'm going to get the book. Hence, how I came to be reading at street corners while walking home from the library.

The TV show stars Michelle Dockery as Letty and let me tell you Letty is no Lady Mary (that's a Downton Abbey reference for those who didn't know). Letty is a thief, drug addict, ex-con who listens to self-help tapes as she tries to get her life back on track. That's not easy given that stealing is the only thing that gives her the high crystal meth did. Actually I would go further and say it isn't just the stealing she gets off on, it is being a different person. Letty's true talent is how she can transform into someone else before your eyes. Instead of a recovering drug addict recently out of jail, she's a ghost writer for famous authors or a high school teacher. All it takes is a wig and an accent change and she is a completely new person. Too bad she can't keep it up and change for real.

In the first episode Letty is stealing from hotel guests. One guest comes back early forcing her to hide in the closet. While hiding she overhears a conversation between a husband and the man he has hired to kill his wife. Letty may be a criminal but she still has a conscience. She can't simply let a woman be murdered. So she intervenes. From here the show and the book go in different directions and both are captivating. The show focuses on Letty's struggles and various relationships in her life (one in particular). The book, which contains the novellas The Pain of Others, Sunset Key, and Grab, is all about Letty. In each story she continually gets into and out of trouble, always of her own making. Letty is a fantastic and memorable character. She is smart and quick on her feet. She is a survivor even though she keeps doing things that pose very real threats to her survival. It was hard not to like her.

I'm not sure when the three novellas were originally published. The edition I read was clearly repackaged and republished to coincide with the show. In addition to the novellas, it includes short essays from the author on the evolution of the stories from print to the screen. The essays were great, adding insight into how and why the story changed. I would definitely recommend this (and the show too).