In new thrillers, Henry Porter joins the ranks of the best British crime writers, and the basketball star co-writes a murder mystery starring Sherlock Holmes.
Luc Samson, the protagonist in Henry Porter’s superior espionage thriller “Firefly” (Mysterious Press, 480 pp., $27), is a former MI6 operative called back into service for a crucial mission. He must find and protect Naji Toumi, a young Syrian refugee making his way to Germany. Naji has explosive information encrypted on his cellphone about ISIS. And the terrorists are also tracking Naji.
Porter is part of a new generation of Britons — Charles Cumming and Mick Herron among them — who could rival John le Carré, the gold standard for espionage thrillers that value intelligence and social conscience over shoot-’em-up thrills. A journalist, Porter also displays intimate knowledge of one of today’s most heartbreaking events: the Middle Eastern refugee crisis.
Naji, the object of Samson’s search, is only 13, but smart and brave, with a knack for technology and survival in the harshest of circumstances.
Through alternating viewpoints, Porter follows Samson, just a step behind Naji, as the teen crosses the Balkans on foot. Though sometimes slowed by a subplot concerning betting on horses, it’s a genuinely thrilling chase, filled with bighearted empathy for refugees — something sorely needed.
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Sherlock Holmes and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are two names that might not have an obvious connection, but “Mycroft and Sherlock” (Titan, 336 pp., $25.99) is the latest evidence that the basketball legend is a serious writer with a passion for history.
“Mycroft and Sherlock” is Abdul-Jabbar’s second book about the great detective and his older brother. Still a teen, Sherlock is just beginning to hone his remarkable skills. The equally brilliant Mycroft has yet to become a vital, if unseen, player in British politics. Someone is committing gruesome murders all over London while a fiendishly clever opium ring flourishes. Realizing that the two are linked, Holmes goes into sleuthing mode.
It’s impossible to know how much of the book’s writing, told in stilted Victorian-style prose, is by Abdul-Jabbar, and how much is by his writing partner, Anna Waterhouse. I suspect it’s a pretty even score, and as a worthy addition to the groaning shelves of new Holmes stories, “Mycroft and Sherlock” stands tall.