A Slight Trick of the Mind

A Slight Trick of the Mind

by Mitch Cullin


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Slight Trick of the Mind 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a joy it has been of late for us Sherlockians. Not only has there been a batch of new scholarly Holmes-related books to digest and debate--among them THE NEW ANNOTATED SHERLOCK HOLMES--but we¿ve also been blessed with three very interesting and top-notch pastiches. What makes this trio of recent novels so unique is that they come from unlikely writers, individuals who fall more into the literary category than the mystery genre. I am, of course, referring to the three-headed prong that is Caleb Carr (THE ITALIAN SECRETARY), Michael Chabon (THE FINAL SOLUTION), and Mitch Cullin (A SLIGHT TRICK OF THE MIND). *** As I decided to read all three books back to back, I shall comment on them in the order in which they were read. For better or worse, I started with the one that I believed would be the most satisfying of the trio: Caleb Carr¿s THE ITALIAN SECRETARY. However, while I found Carr¿s book engaging and fun for the most part, I was somewhat disappointed with it. In hindsight, my feelings might have more to do with my high regard for Carr¿s previous novels--such as THE ALIENIST--than it does with the actual quality of his Sherlock novel. In other words, had THE ITALIAN SECRETARY been written by someone else, I might not have found myself feeling it lacked the strength and depth of story that I¿ve come to expect from, yes, a Caleb Carr novel. So putting those thoughts aside, I will say that Carr¿s book is mostly well written and he has done a good job at capturing the spirit, intrigue, and style of Doyle. However, it fell a little flat toward the end, giving me the sense of a rushed job. Even so, both his Holmes and Watson are vivid and quite enjoyable, and I do hope he tries his hand at another Sherlock pastiche, taking his time to draw the story out rather than move it so swiftly to its conclusion. A somewhat slight but worthy read nevertheless. *** Next up was Michael Chabon¿s THE FINAL SOLUTION, the Pulitzer-Prize winning writer¿s look at an unnamed Sherlock in retirement, set with World War II as the backdrop. This novella--not novel--is actually quite wonderful and the writing is fluid, lyrical, and overall rather excellent. To be frank, I wasn¿t expecting much from such a slim volume that offered us Sherlock as an elderly gentleman. But I was mistaken. It is an intelligent diversion, and, like Mitch Cullin¿s novel, brings the character into a modern age that somewhat confounds him. If I have any complaints, though, it is that Chabon made a point of never mentioning Sherlock by name (he is simply The Old Man), and, by doing so, skirted the character¿s history and much of his background, making him a bit one dimensional. The shortness of the book, too, didn¿t leave much room for the plot (which is, by the way, very interesting) or other characters to be developed at any great length. Still, there was enough here to hold my interest, and, in its own way, THE FINAL SOLUTION not only compliments Mitch Cullin¿s longer work but its themes and story also function as a kind of extended prologue to the last book in the threesome. A wonderfully written, thoughtful addition to Holmes literature that manages to pack a decent punch in too few pages. *** Poor Mitch Cullin, I thought when I finally got around to his A SLIGHT TRICK OF THE MIND. Besides holding the distinction of being ¿the best American novelist you`ve probably never heard of,¿ his attempt to capture Sherlock followed in the shadows of both Carr and Chabon¿s efforts (although, by comparison, I¿m willing to bet Cullin toiled on his book much longer than either of his contemporaries). And yet, of the three, his vision of Holmes is the most interesting and the best realized. The writing is superb, if not downright poetic at times. Most important to me, however, was that the elderly Sherlock of this novel has been humanized in a very realistic manner but yet, without question, still reads and sounds like Doyle¿s creation. That is no easy ac
nprfan1 More than 1 year ago
If you bought this book with the expectation of reading about a "new" Sherlock Holmes mystery, think again. Despite the fact that the novel contains a story purportedly written by the Great Detective, I believe you'll be disappointed. The only mystery Holmes encounters in this well-written book is the greatest one of all - life, and its approaching termination.

The year is 1947. Holmes is ninety-three years old. Watson, Mrs Hudson, and his brother Mycroft have long since shuffled off this mortal coil, and also, so it seems, has a great deal of Holmes vaunted intellect. He is not senile by any means. On the other hand, he is suffering the same maladies borne by a great number of people who reach his age - for example, it's easier for him to recall things that happened forty years ago than events that took place four days ago.

Mitch Cullin takes this basic concept and gives us an idea of what Holmes might have been like at this age, and does so beautifully. As one might expect, Holmes at ninety-three is irascible and impatient, but he has also surprisingly mellowed. He has much more patience with others than is mentioned by Watson in Conan Doyle's original tales.

There is also something of a plot, but you need to remember that there is no mystery, scandal, or intrigue involved. The story deals basically with a trip made by Holmes to Japan after the end of World War II, and the relationship he develops with the man who invited him there; and the relationship he has with the son of his new housekeeper - something I am sure the Holmes of Conan Doyle's stories would have emphatically disdained.

Since Cullin has implied that Holmes basically retired from the trade of a consulting detective after moving to his Sussex cottage (with the obvious exception of the story related in "His Last Bow"), one wonders what his life would have been like between that relocation and the time of the current tale. I for one would like to know.
Guest More than 1 year ago
No one is better equipped to voice of the iconic Sherlock Holmes than British actor Simon Jones. Versatile and engaging, Jones has narrated more than 50 audio books and received accolades for his stage, screen and television work. He brings both humor and accessability to the Sherlock Homes we meet in Cullin's imaginative story. Mitch Cullin won me with his debut novel, Whompyjawed, in 1999. Since then he has more than fulfilled his earlier promise. While a number of writers have attempted to reinvent Holmes, few have done it as ably as Cullin. With 'A Slight Trick of the Mind' we find a 93-year-old Holmes engaged in penning letters, articles and, of course indulging in his favorite pastime, beekeeping. One of his projects involves a character, a young woman we've not met before. Throughout this all too brief tale Holmes continues to reminisce, pondering the past and paths not taken. He remembers a trip to Japan and a chance meeting with someone who turned out to be the son of an acquaintance. Cullin also gives us a friend for Holmes, Roger, who is the son of his housekeeper. The young man becomes both companion and prodigy. Listen for the joy of Simon Jones' reading and a reintroduction to one of literature's most popular figures.
jason.bartlett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Certainly this was a challenging novel to write both because it is much longer than a typical Sherlock Holmes story, which if sticking to the actual works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are all much shorter, and because it attempts to imagine what Sherlock would be like many many years ahead of they young vibrant Sherlock we have come to love and admire. I thought I would find I disliked a portrait of Holmes as an elderly man, especial one that is senile and forgetful, but this was not the case. Understanding that this is Cullin's own take on a well known character and excepting this fact, so that I cleared away false expectations of how the character should be written, once submersed in the story it became quite a believable reality. What struck me most was how effectively Cullin portrayed the mental state of an elderly person struggling to maintain his dignity and composure whilst his mind lapsed between reality and memory - the margin blurred between the two. I felt enriched by the experience of sympathizing with this man whose shoes anybody might find themselves in. This underscores the false belief we have in the enduring nature of our mental faculty. Any of us fortunate enough to live to the ripe old age of 93 would be quiet lucky to still have their wits still with them.Although it wasn't a nail-biting, can't put it down book, I fully enjoyed listening to it (audio-book with very good narration). I think it's good to mix in these slower paced stories along with the far flung and fast action ones for a balanced literary diet. And if you need another reason to read this book, you can learn a few things as well, especially about bees, glass harmonica's, post war Japan, prickly ash, and the health benefits of royal jelly. :)
sweetiegherkin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set a couple of years after the end of World War II, this book takes a new look at that famed detective, Sherlock Holmes. Now 93 years old, Holmes is physically frail, walking with the aid of two canes and frequently napping. Moreover, while his wit is still sharp as ever, his memory is not. He is constantly struggling with trying to remember events which has just occurred, although his memory of long past events is fairly intact. No longer a detective, Holmes busies himself studying honeybees and homeopathic remedies. Interspersed in this narrative of the elderly Holmes struggling to fight off the effects of aging are two flashback narratives. The first is Holmes recalling a recent trip to Japan, where on search for prickly ash - a plant he believes is a homeopathic remedy, he discovers a long-lost mystery. His host's father went to England many years ago on business and never returned. The last his family ever heard of him was in a letter he sent, noting that Holmes advised him to stay on in England permanently. But Holmes cannot remember the man, despite the insistent prodding of his host. The second narrative is a case Holmes has decided to write about, despite it being about 40 years after the fact. The case involves a young couple, a glass armonica, and possible witchcraft. Holmes finds himself entranced by the young wife, an infatuation that is still with him as an elderly man. I'm a bit ambivalent on this book. I liked the structure of the book, and I think the author did a fine job of moving from narrative to narrative. However, many questions raised are never fully or satisfactorily answered. In addition, some bits of the narrative, particularly the "present" narrative, were a bit dull with the excessive level of detail given on the mundane. I most enjoyed the narrative of the old case of the glass armonica, but although Holmes states he knows the mystery's conclusion toward the beginning of the case, the reader is still left with unanswered questions. Overall, the book's themes and events are rather depressing, so definitely do not read it if you are looking for something light. However, if reading something somewhat dark does not bother you, you might enjoy this title.
bnbookgirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not as good as it sounded. I was really disappointed. It just seemed very disjointed. I am a huge Holmes fan, but this one did not do it for me.
mbergman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is, in a way, a homage to the Sherlock Holmes books the way Tilting at Windmills was an homage to Don Quixote. But this one goes further beyond the character's original portrayal while still remaining recognizably the same one. Holmes is, in 1947, 92 years old, caring for his bees, as he is cared for by his housekeeper & admired by her son, who has, almost against Holmes's will, become something of a beekeeping apprentice for whom Holmes has come to care deeply. Holmes has also recently returned from a visit to a correspondent in Japan and sees there the devastation caused by the war. He is repeatedly asked to answer why deeply troubling things happen & to come to grips with the reealization that the meaning of human tragedy is much more elusive, much more difficult to solve than the mystery solving that made him famous. I'm sure this book was asking me as a reader to make far more connections than I was able to make, but I never felt that it was pretentious or that my failure as a reader diminished by appreciation for the author's ability to plumb the depths of a human soul who by his nature tended to resist such probing questions.
Othemts on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mitch Cullin takes the very familiar literary character of Sherlock Holmes and puts him in the seemingly unlikely setting of 1947 post-war England. The aged Holmes is long-retired from detective work, tending to bees, writing his memoirs, and beginning to lose his mental faculties. His only companions are his housekeeper and her bright son Roger of whom Holmes begins to take on as a protegé with even some paternal feelings. Three stories are intertwined - Holmes life at his rural cottage and growing mentor ship to Roger, flashbacks to a recent trip to Japan after the atomic bomb attacks where he went to collect botanical specimens, and a his own written account of a case and a woman who continue to haunt him. This is a very different Holmes than ever presented by Conan Doyle yet fitting seamlessly into the oeuvre. It's a sad account of a very human side of Sherlock Holmes that is reminiscent of The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro.
ssperson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Finished this on December 3, 2007. It took a long time for me to read, mainly because it was one of five or so books on my bedside table, and also had to compete with O and Cooking Light.I did like the book. It was a little obtuse at times, but I need to get over needing everything whacked over my head. It was a different perspective on Holmes, Holmes The Aged.
DianaH-Maine More than 1 year ago
I was quite captivated with the movie, “Mr. Holmes’. The story lines, the characters, the acting, the gorgeous scenery - the word ‘captivated’ aptly describes my feeling for this film. As I read more about the film, I discovered that the film was based on the book, ‘A slight trick of the mind’ by Mitch Cullin. Of course, I had to read the book. The book and the film diverge in some areas, but the book also fascinated me. Several threads move in and out of this spider web of a story: Mr. Holmes’s frequent lapses of memory and his growing, panicked awareness of his waning mental abilities; his writing of two very important last works - his ‘Whole art of detection’ and a last/ultimate treatise on bee-keeping; his hives and bees; his relationship with his housekeeper’s son, Roger; a visit to post-Hiroshima Japan; and a mystery from his past, The glass armonica. There is a great sense of the time period in this story; a great sense of character; and an insightful writing of the aging process and its emotional effect on a person’s mind. The book is very ‘atmospheric’, in that I felt I was actually observing Mr. Holmes in past and present activities, not just reading about him. I would highly recommend this book.
ningkiling More than 1 year ago
sometimes the old grow old and the young die young, and it is possible to live too long and yet be allowed to endure still ... calls to mind the notion in kierkegaard that memory is a kind of forgetting