That’s right: nonpareil basketball player Abdul-Jabbar, who’s already written memoirs, nonfiction titles, and children’s books (Stealing the Game, 2015, etc.), partners with screenwriter Waterhouse to introduce a prequel to the adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ smarter brother.
Back in 1870, when Sherlock is still an indifferent student at the Royal College of St. Peter, his older brother, a little wet behind the ears at 23, serves as secretary to Edward Cardwell, the Secretary of State for War, and looks forward to his marriage to Georgiana Sutton, a perfect English rose born in Port of Spain. His plans are knocked sideways by the hushed news from his Trinidadian friend and associate Cyrus Douglas that a lougarou, as the islanders call werewolves, has been draining the blood of young children and causing mass disappearances of their elders. Booking passage aboard the Sultana for Trinidad, the two men swiftly find themselves immersed in an unholy scheme by a ring of freelance entrepreneurs to revive a horror recently and traumatically abolished in the Americas. Even more disturbingly, every new development in the adventure, which eventually leads the visitors to the Sacred Order of the Harmonious Fists, seems to point unerringly to well-placed government functionaries and protectors and implicate someone close to Mycroft himself as a conspirator.
The central conceit is audacious; Mycroft’s sense of moral outrage is nicely reflective of the era; the historical detail is solid; and the period decorum is well-maintained throughout. Only the characters and their cumbersome individual interactions are muffled by all the grade-A trappings.