A Slight Trick of the Mind

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9780385513289: A Slight Trick of the Mind

Mitch Cullin’s absorbing A Slight Trick of the Mind is an original portrait of literature’s most beloved detective, Sherlock Holmes, in the twilight of his illustrious life.

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.

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Review:

Long after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle allowed him to retire to Sussex to take up beekeeping, there seems to be no end of enthusiasm for imagined versions of the life of Sherlock Holmes. There was Michael Chabon's The Final Solution in which "the old man," an 89-year-old beekeeper in Sussex is undoubtedly Holmes. Laurie King, a fine mystery writer, has appropriated Holmes and created a romance between him and young Mary Russell which has lasted through several enjoyable books. And now, nonagenarian Holmes reappears, most appealingly, in Mitch Cullin's A Slight Trick of the Mind. He is frail and forgetful but still observant and capable of shining the bright light of his insight and brilliance on events both past and present.

Cullin has carefully woven three stories together and managed it so neatly that no threads show--worthy of Holmes himself. The first is the story of Holmes's recent return from a trip to Japan, ostensibly in search of prickly ash, a bush that he believes contributes to healthy longevity, as does his beloved and trusted royal jelly. While there, he is met by his correspondent, Mr. Umezaki, who isn't as interested in prickly ash as in gleaning information from Holmes about his long-gone father. Supposedly, they met many years before, in London, and Holmes advised him not to return home. Of course, Holmes has no recollection of the meeting but finesses it nicely.

It is 1947 when they visit Hiroshima, post-atomic bomb, and Holmes marvels at what he sees. He compares it, most poignantly, to the loss of the queen in a hive, "when no resources were available to raise a new one. Yet how could he explain the deeper illness of unexpressed desolation, that imprecise pall harbored en masse by ordinary Japanese?" That is what he tells Roger, the 14-year-old son of his housekeeper. Roger is the second thread of the novel. Holmes is introducing him to beekeeping and Roger proves an apt student. His hero-worship of Holmes and his need for a father form an integral part of Cullin's intention of "humanizing" the great Sherlock Holmes.

The final thread is revealed in a journal that Holmes kept, in which he entered an encounter with a married woman, many years ago. He is infatuated with her, and hardly knows what to call it or what to make of his feelings. This is unfamiliar territory for the man who is rational above all else. The man we know at the end of the book makes the reader want another installment, showing a new Sherlock with a heart as well as a brain. --Valerie Ryan

About the Author:

MITCH CULLIN is the author of six books, including Tideland and Branches, a novel-in-verse. He lives in California’s San Gabriel Valley, where in addition to writing fiction, he collaborates on various projects with the artist Peter I. Chang.

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Mitch Cullin
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ISBN 10: 0385513283 ISBN 13: 9780385513289
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Descrizione libro Nan A. Talese, 2005. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. Hardcover and dust jacket. Fine binding and cover. Clean, unmarked pages. Ships daily. Codice libro della libreria 1701270013

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