A Slight Trick of the Mind

You’ll recall that a month ago I wrote a few words about Mitch Cullin’s novel, A Slight Trick of the Mind:

I can’t yet review A Slight Trick of the Mind, by Mitch Cullin, as I am only halfway through reading it. I can, however, report that it is written in a much more literary style than the Moore and Chabon works. In fact, one of the reasons that I am only halfway through it is that I find myself reading every word of every sentence, savoring the style as much as the content. I happen to like that, though I know that many readers do not. Anyway, here we have Holmes even older than in Chabon’s portrayal: at age 93, after the end of the Second World War, Holmes is still retired and keeping bees in Sussex. I’ll refrain from saying anything more until I’ve finished the book, but I’m quite sure that I will end up recommending it.

The context here was a piece about two other Sherlock Holmes pastiches, The Sherlockian, by Graham Moore, and The Final Solution, by Michael Chabon. Now I’ve finished A Slight Trick of the Mind and can actually review it.

The first thing to say is that my preliminary comments quoted above still hold true. In fact the “literary style” is just one indication that this book isn’t a genre novel at all but definitely a mainstream novel. Cullin has intertwined three stories, one current (i.e. 1947), one very recent (a flashback to a trip to Japan), and one from the time right after the canon (in the form of a previously undiscovered manuscript). The result is a character study in which the protagonist didn’t really have to be Sherlock Holmes at all — except that our understanding of him is inevitably informed by our prior knowledge of Holmes in his prime.

A Slight Trick of the Mind is sad and revealing. Read it, but read it when you want to experience a novel, not when you want a Sherlock Holmes story.

Categories: Books