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A Slight Trick of the Mind


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 stirrings…"

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 June 19, 2015

A Slight Trick of the Mind
by Mitch Cullin

  • Publication Date: April 19, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese
  • ISBN-10: 0385513283
  • ISBN-13: 9780385513289