Excerpt from A Slight Trick of The Mind by Mitch Cullin, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

A Slight Trick of The Mind

By Mitch Cullin

A Slight Trick of The Mind
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Apr 2005,
    272 pages.
    Paperback: May 2006,
    272 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Chapter 1

Upon arriving from his travels abroad, he entered his stone-built farmhouse on a summer's afternoon, leaving the luggage by the front door for his housekeeper to manage. He then retreated into the library, where he sat quietly, glad to be surrounded by his books and the familiarity of home. For almost two months, he had been away, traveling by military train across India, by Royal Navy ship to Australia, and then finally setting foot on the occupied shores of postwar Japan. Going and returning, the same interminable routes had been taken–usually in the company of rowdy enlisted men, few of whom acknowledged the elderly gentleman dining or sitting beside them (that slow-walking geriatric, searching his pockets for a match he'd never find, chewing relentlessly on an unlit Jamaican cigar). Only on the rare occasions when an informed officer might announce his identity would the ruddy faces gaze with amazement, assessing him in that moment: For while he used two canes, his body remained unbowed, and the passing of years hadn't dimmed his keen gray eyes; his snow-white hair, thick and long, like his beard, was combed straight back in the English fashion.

"Is that true? Are you really him?"

"I am afraid I still hold that distinction."

"You are Sherlock Holmes? No, I don't believe it."

"That is quite all right. I scarcely believe it myself."

But at last the journey was completed, though he found it difficult to summon the specifics of his days abroad. Instead, the whole vacation–while filling him like a satisfying meal–felt unfathomable in hindsight, punctuated here and there by brief remembrances that soon became vague impressions and were invariably forgotten again. Even so, he had the immutable rooms of his farmhouse, the rituals of his orderly country life, the reliability of his apiary–these things required no vast, let alone meager, amount of recall; they had simply become ingrained during his decades of isolation. Then there were the bees he tended: The world continued to change, as did he, but they persisted nonetheless. And after his eyes closed and his breaths resonated, it would be a bee that welcomed him home–a worker manifesting in his thoughts, finding him elsewhere, settling on his throat and stinging him.

Of course, when stung by a bee on the throat, he knew it was best to drink salt and water to prevent serious consequences. Naturally, the stinger should be pulled from the skin beforehand, preferably seconds after the poison's instantaneous release. In his forty-four years of beekeeping on the southern slope of the Sussex Downs–living between Seaford and Eastbourne, the closest village being the tiny Cuckmere Haven–he had received exactly 7,816 stings from worker bees (almost always on the hands or face, occasionally on the earlobes or the neck or the throat: the cause and subsequent effects of every single prick dutifully contemplated, and later recorded into one of the many notebook journals he kept in his attic study). These mildly painful experiences, over time, had led him to a variety of remedies, each depending on which parts of his body had been stung and the ultimate depth to which the stinger had gone: salt with cold water, soft soap mixed with salt, then half of a raw onion applied to the irritation; when in extreme discomfort, wet mud or clay sometimes did the trick, as long as it was reapplied hourly, until the swelling was no longer apparent; however, to cure the smart, and also prevent inflammation, dampened tobacco rubbed immediately into the skin seemed the most effective solution.



Yet now–while sitting inside the library and napping in his armchair beside the empty fireplace–he was panicked within his dreaming, unable to recall what needed to be done for this sudden sting upon his Adam's apple. He witnessed himself there, in his dream, standing upright among a stretching field of marigolds and clasping his neck with slender, arthritic fingers. Already the swelling had begun, bulging beneath his hands like a pronounced vein. A paralysis of fear overtook him, and he became stock-still as the swelling grew outward and inward (his fingers parted by the ballooning protuberance, his throat closing in on itself).

Excerpted from A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin Copyright © 2005 by Mitch Cullin. Excerpted by permission of Nan A. Talese, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hyde
    Hyde
    by Daniel Levine
    In Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story ends ...
  • Book Jacket: Shotgun Lovesongs
    Shotgun Lovesongs
    by Nickolas Butler
    Nickolas Butler's debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, follows five life-long friends, now in their mid-...
  • Book Jacket: Gemini
    Gemini
    by Carol Cassella
    How good is Gemini, Carol Cassella's book about a Seattle intensive care physician who becomes ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  170The Weight of Blood:
    Laura McHugh
  2.  143Happier at Home:
    Gretchen Rubin

All Discussions

Who Said...

They say that in the end truth will triumph, but it's a lie.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.