Remember when I was so excited about discovering a previously-unread mystery series featuring Mycroft Holmes, the brother of the reknowned Sherlock? This series is authorised by Dame Jean Conan Doyle, and I guess that gave me high expectations of it.
Now that I've finished the first in the series, Against the Brotherhood, and am halfway through the second, Embassy Row, I have to declare myself disappointed.
Mycroft Holmes, a shadowy but powerful figure in the British government, was mentioned a few times in the original Sherlock Holmes stories. Though both possessing formidable intellects, Mycroft was a portly, more sessile character who worked outside the public eye.
In Quinn Fawcett's version, Mycroft assumes disguises as Sherlock is wont to do, and gets out and about a little more than he was allowed in the Canon, but there seems to be a spark missing for me. Perhaps it's because the books are narrated by his secretary, Paterson Guthrie, with excerpts from his butler's diary at the end of every chapter that - though they contribute to the story - tend to detract from the momentum. But then, most of the Sherlock stories were narrated by Watson.
No, I think it's just that Mycroft is less charismatic. Although Fawcett tries hard to recreate Mycroft as a man of action, as well as of thought, he doesn't quite succeed in helping Mycroft doff his original characterisation as a largely sedentary creature.
And while Sherlock's deductions and thinking processes may be a mystery to the reader for a while, all is revealed at the end, and we can fully marvel at his brilliance. Not so with Mycroft. In addition to having heavier political overtones, a good number of his directives, actions and thoughts remain unexplained in the book.
And though Sherlock's weaknesses are obvious and at times even self-destructive, the passionate nature that's part and parcel of his tremendous intellect is - I think - what has endeared him to generations of readers and made him approachable and unforgettable. The tortured, genius hero, if you will.
So, although I will finish Embassy Row, and may pick up another Mycroft book somewhere down the road to give him another chance, I think I'd enjoy re-reading part of the Canon and waiting for the next Mary Russell book more. Yes, I remain faithfully yours, Sherlock.
Posted by Lana to Bumbling Bees - Books at 5/06/2006 05:40:00 PM