A Slight Trick of the Mind
In Mitch Cullin's fond memoirs of Sherlock Holmes living out his
golden years, we see the solitary man at 93 and freshly returned
from a trip to Kobe, Japan. For many years he has been retired to
his country house in Sussex, having outlived Dr. Watson, Mrs.
Hudson, and brother Mycroft. He wishes for nothing more than the
solitary life --- not surprising, never having been a particularly
gregarious sort --- and the time to tend his bees. But, however
improbable, the 14-year-old son of his widowed housekeeper becomes
his unlikely companion.
"…they faced the hives together, saying nothing for a while.
Silence like this, in the beeyard, never failed to please him
wholly; from the way Roger stood easily beside him, he believed the
boy shared an equal satisfaction. And while he rarely enjoyed the
company of children, it was difficult avoiding the paternal
Roger, quite obviously in awe of the aged detective, eagerly aids
him with his apiary and escorts him around his gardens. The lad
soaks up everything like a sponge and thirsts for more. In secret,
he sneaks into Holmes's attic library, just to be among the great
man's books and feel his ancient aura. While up there one day,
Roger discovers an unfinished manuscript among the items on the
desk. Titled "The Glass Armonicist," the story chronicles a case
pursued by Holmes in Dr. Watson's absence, the subject of this case
being a lovely young woman who inexplicably seized Holmes's fancy.
She haunts his memory still, despite their brief encounter. As A
SLIGHT TRICK OF THE MIND unfolds, "The Glass Armonicist" is
completed, while Holmes can still sort out the sequence of events.
This story within a story wonderfully contrasts the quickness of
Sherlock Holmes in his prime with the man now in his decline.
Softened by the years, the stoic Holmes feels a genuine fondness
for the boy. To his bemused astonishment, he seeks to uncover
Roger's personal history, finding him more than merely unobtrusive;
in fact, quite remarkable. What he knows is that Roger lost his
father in the war, leaving the child with tender memories and a
hunger for a male role model. Holmes met another fatherless son on
his recent trip to Japan. Unlike Roger's dad, though, Tamiki
Umezaki's father simply made a choice not to come home one day.
Both carry the scars of their loss, while Holmes fills a void in
each of their lives, however fleeting.
At his advanced age, Holmes is still sharp, but time has dulled the
edges of his memory. Occasionally disoriented, he sometimes is
unsure whether he is remembering something from the past or
contemporary times. Having lived so full a life, the myriad
recollections get jumbled and he struggles to put them right. In
fact, his journey to Kobe revolved around a chance to procure a
supply of royal jelly, a substance said to halt the aging process.
Holmes fervently wishes to stop the advancing brain muddle.
Beautiful, poignant and very sad, A SLIGHT TRICK OF THE MIND
retains enough of Holmes's remarkable powers to delight his many
dedicated fans. But there is such exquisite writing, moving
introspection and gentle ruminations about the vagaries of memory
loss to draw in every reader who has a heart.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 23, 2011
A Slight Trick of the Mind
- Publication Date: April 19, 2005
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Nan A. Talese
- ISBN-10: 0385513283
- ISBN-13: 9780385513289