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Posted July 6, 2005
The Literary Sherlocks
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
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Posted May 9, 2012
a book of method and memory
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
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Posted November 23, 2008
Not your typical Sherlock Holmes story
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. <BR/><BR/>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. <BR/><BR/>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. <BR/><BR/>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. <BR/><BR/>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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 10, 2005
THIS READING IS SHEER PLEASURE
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.