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
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.
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).
This look at Holmes near his natural death is a delight and a deeply
satisfying read... Cullin's work is hard to pigeonhole-Texas noir (Tideland; Branches),
coming-of-age novel (Whompyjawed), academic satire (The Cosmology of Bing)-but
his talent is undeniable.
This extra layer of realistic
complexity makes Cullin's immensely moving seventh outing one of the best of all
the Holmes pastiches. A talented writer's bold step forward. Let's hope Cullin
isn't finished with Sherlock Holmes.
Booklist - Stephanie Zvirin
Under Cullin's sure hand, the vibrant, assured detective we know gives way to a man who looks back with regret at missed opportunities in a manner that makes the larger-than-life figure surprisingly human.
Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife
Mitch Cullin has written a loving, sad tale of Sherlock Holmes in the era of
Hiroshima, a Holmes who is not entirely sure of his powers, but who has come
into his own humanity. When I was a child I believed that Holmes was a real
person. After reading A Slight Trick of the Mind, I know he is.
Margot Livesey, author of Banishing Verona: A Novel
As he explores the mysteries of fatherless boys and childless men, Mitch Cullin transports his reader effortlessly from post-war Japan to Edwardian London. A Slight Trick of the Mind is both intricate and absorbing, a novel of unusual range and depth.
Karl Iagnemma, author of On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction
What a pleasure it was to re-enter Sherlock Holmes's world, and find the
aged detective as intelligent and observant as I'd remembered. In Mitch Cullin's
imagination, however, Holmes is more pensive and wistful--more human--than ever
before. A Slight Trick of the Mind is an elegant meditation on memory and
mortality, brilliantly conceived and beautifully written, full of subtlety and
wisdom and grace.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Kirconnell The Beekeeper I really enjoyed this book. It is a different view of the Sherlock Holmes mythology. Readers of Doyle's detective series have always seen Holmes as an energetic younger man at the height of his mental powers, but what would happen when he gets... Read More
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.
The armonica was invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1761.
He was inspired to create it having heard a concert played on wine
glasses! For a time armonicas were all the rage, Marie
Antoinette (who, incidentally, historians say never did...
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...