Fans of both the great detective Sherlock Holmes and his older brother, Mycroft, will be more than pleased with these offerings from basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and author/screenwriter Nicholas Meyer.
Abdul-Jabbar, in his third venture with screenwriter Anna Waterhouse, presents another adventure from the Holmes brothers’ early years with Mycroft and Sherlock: The Empty Birdcage. The 19-year-old Sherlock deems his time at Downing College as “insufferable,” so he is happily distracted by the apparent randomness of a series of crimes across Great Britain dubbed the 411 killings. There are no discernible commonalities among the victims; only a note from the killer ties the crimes together. Meanwhile Mycroft, alongside his friend and confidant Cyrus Douglas, is embroiled in a quest to find the missing fiancé of the woman he loves.
As in their first adventure, Mycroft and Sherlock, the Holmes brothers spend much of this latest novel following the clues in their separate cases before coming together. Both storylines are equally fascinating as Abdul-Jabbar and Waterhouse capture the flavor of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Victorian London and his characters to a tee. Readers may yearn for the brothers Holmes to be united even sooner so their brilliant minds can spar with one another, but it’s a satisfying adventure nonetheless.
Sadly, Mycroft only plays a minor (albeit important) role in Meyer’s The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols, but it’s enough to set Sherlock and his dutiful companion, Dr. John H. Watson, on a suspenseful cross-country race to debunk a global conspiracy. While Sherlock is still in his teens in The Empty Birdcage, the detective has just turned 50 as Meyer’s latest adventure starts.
In 1905, Mycroft encourages the intrepid duo to launch an investigation into the discovery of a manuscript (and actual historical hoax) known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The papers purportedly represent the minutes of a secret council advocating nothing less than complete world domination on behalf of Jews.
Holmes’ mission: Determine who drafted the papers and expose them as a hoax. The quest takes Holmes and Watson from Baker Street to Paris, and then to Russia aboard the fabled Orient Express. The danger and mystery intensify with each turn of the page, as unsavory characters dog their every step. Even Holmes’ beloved Stradivarius violin isn’t safe. Though Holmes ultimately manages to identify the man who falsified the papers and coerces him to confess, the mere publication of the papers will fuel the conspiracy for decades to come.
Meyer may be best known for his screenwriting and directing duties on three Star Trek films, but he is no stranger to Holmes pastiches either, as he previously “discovered” unpublished Watson manuscripts in the form of his novels The West End Horror and The Canary Trainer. Meyer’s familiarity with Doyle’s characters clearly works to his advantage, as he packs an abundance of suspense, intrigue and Holmesian flavor into this latest tale.