A Slight Trick of the Mind – A Book Review Ready for a Movie
I’ve been aware of this book for many years, that is to say, I’ve quietly ignored it, until it was recently thrust from my Sherlockian ‘shit list’ to my Sherlockian ‘best of list’, all because of Hollywood. I’m glad I gave this book a chance, if only to get some insight into the movie and my favorite character of all time. If it’s good enough for Hollywood, it’s good enough for me!
This book doesn’t pretend to be written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which is a good move. It is written in third person in some parts and by Holmes’s own hand in others. It is also very moving and rife with emotion. Gone are the detached adventures and the plain, visual style. Mitch Cullin writes with a personal touch, though he goes on too long in places, but that didn’t happen very often. I like his ‘personal Sherlock Holmes’, and I can see why this story was selected to be a Hollywood movie.
In this book, there are actually three stories going on. One is of Holmes’s retirement, and the others are memories of two past events from his life, a trip and a case. Holmes recalls a trip to Japan and his stay with a friend there. His friend wants to know more about his father, who left him long ago, because of some advice Holmes gave him, reportedly. The aged Holmes has no memory of meeting his friend’s father, so he invents a lie to appease and comfort him, which is somewhat sad in retrospect. The third story intertwined with these others is of a past case, where Holmes becomes obsessed with ANOTHER woman in a photograph, although she is not THE woman.
Of these stories, I liked the Japanese tale the most, although the retirement events in present day 1947 have way more emotion. I like the detail Cullin uses in his tale of Holmes in Japan, and there is some comment on the state of post-war Japan. The tone and style of these stories is consistent throughout, and they end with Holmes alone with his thoughts, his science, and his memories. It’s kinda sad, really.
Overall, this is a great book. I’m hoping it won’t be too sappy of a movie, although glossing over the emotional parts might be a mistake too. The best part of this book is that it doesn’t feel like it is copying Conan Doyle, because it has other goals in mind. The way that it deals with old age and death has a huge impact on Holmes, and I look forward to seeing this color and emotion on the big screen.