Mitch Cullin's engrossing A Slight Trick of the Mind is an original portrait of
literature's most beloved detective, Sherlock Holmes, in the twilight of his
Holmes--"a genius in whom scientific curiosity is raised to the status of heroic passion"--is famous for his powers of deduction. His world is made up of hard evidence and uncontestable facts, his observations and conclusions unsullied by personal feelings, until novelist Cullin goes behind the cold, unsentimental surface to reveal for the first time the inner world of an obsessively private man.
It is 1947, and the long-retired Holmes, now 93, lives in a remote Sussex farmhouse, where his memories and intellect begin to go adrift. He lives with a housekeeper and her young son, Roger, whose patient, respectful demeanor stirs paternal affection in Holmes. Holmes has settled into the routine of tending his apiary, writing in journals, and grappling with the diminishing powers of his razor-sharp mind, when Roger comes upon a case hitherto unknown. It is that of a Mrs. Keller, the long-ago object of Holmes's deep--and never acknowledged--infatuation.
As Mitch Cullin weaves together Holmes's hidden past, his poignant struggle to retain mental acuity, and his unlikely relationship with Roger, Holmes is transformed from the machine-like, mythic figure into an ordinary man, confronting and acquiescing to emotions he has resisted his entire life. This subtle and wise work is more than just a reimagining of a classic character. It is a profound meditation on faultiness of memory and how, as we grow older, the way we see the world is inevitably altered.
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 takenusually 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:...
Cullin's Holmes is a rather nice old fellow. He's still the exceptionally acute observer he always was, but age has added a welcome layer of humanity to his character. Not only has he lost "the arrogance of my youth", but as he points out, he never was the person people took him to be - he never wore a deerstalker or smoked a pipe, these - he says - were just figments of the illustrator's imagination; and he's quite willing to admit that he and John ("you know, I never did call him Watson--he was John, simply John") bungled a number of important cases but "of course, who wants to read about the failures?"
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (563 words).
Conan Doyle wrote 60 stories about Sherlock Holmes
between 1887 and 1927. Since Doyle's time, many authors
have been inspired to write further stories about
Holmes. In recent years these have included
Laurie R King (the Mary Russell novels), Michael Chabon (The Final Solution - which I found to be
disappointing) and now Mitch Cullin.
The armonica - a musical instrument constructed of graduated glass bowls with holes and corks in the center - forms a central role in the case that Holmes relates. ...
If you liked A Slight Trick of The Mind, try these:
An utter astonishment that captures an era through one life celebrated internationally - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; and another entirely forgotten - George Edalji.
A brilliant blend of traditional (Sherlock)Holmesian myth, startling originality, complex plotting, and unforgettable characters set against a fully realized early-twentieth-century world.
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