When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes, he showed his readers – who soon loved his figure – a man in his middles ages, with his abilities in full bloom. What the famous detective did before he moved into 221B Baker Street is hovering in the mists of fiction and so is his life after his retirement, despite the fact that he cares deeply for his behives.
In Mitch Cullin’s “A Slight Trick of the Mind” we find Sherlock Holmes, now 93, in a Sussex farmhouse, living a quiet and solitary life, with only his housekeeper and her son as a company. And to write it just here: What could be a infringement of the original canon as a whole and to the famous detective in particular, is a tribute to Sherlock Holmes – full of respect and full of love – that is moving and heartbreaking and one of the best novels around. Cullin unfolds a fine portrait of a man who is perfectly aware of his age, his fragile body – he’s only able to walk with the help of canes – and of his once so brilliant brain that is no longer able to remember every detail.
“There are many (…) scenes in my head, and all are easily accessible.
Why they remain and others flit away, I cannot say.”
And so the story is about a case about a woman who still impresses him deeply (not the woman though), about a journey to Japan where he meets a pen pal. But the story is much more than just another case and another client. It’s the attempt of an old man looking back on his long life and setting himself at rest with himself and the people surrounding him. Of course John: “You know”, Holmes tells his Japanese friend, “I never did call him Watson – he was John, simply John.” John who never was the fool “both dramatist and so-called mystery novelists” show him and which Holmes takes as an insult to himself because he still respects him deeply, the man “who with his customary humour, patience, and loyalty, indulged the eccentricities of a frequently disagreeable friend.” Sherlock fans will remember the best man’s speech in “The Sign of Three” of BBC’s series 3 where Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock confesses his love for his Martin Freeman’s John in a similar way.
As much as the creators of BBC’s Sherlock love and care for the original canon, so does Mitch Cullin – and so will the readers.
“A Slight Trick of the Mind” will hit cinemas in 2015 with Ian McKellen as the iconic detective.
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Mitch Cullin, “A Slight Trick of the Mind”, Anchor Books, 2005, 10.90 Euro/15 Dollars/ 8 £