The Sherlock Holmes we met in A Slight Trick of The Mind is a 93 year man that walks with two canes and seems to be losing what is left of his once great mind. It is a sad tale that is soaked with nostalgia for the days gone by when Holmes could solve a crime just by looking at the mud on a shoe’s heel or listening to the twang of an accent.
Holnes still cares for bees and still roams around the world. He visits the site of the Hiroshima Nuclear Attack and marvels at the steel skeleton of the lone upright building in the city. But he did not go to Japan to look at the devastation, he went in search of a cure for old age to compliment his love of Royal Jelly.
Sherlock Holmes is like an old uncle that you only see at the holidays, then suddenly remember that you have not talked to him in too long a time. He is good to visit with once in a while, rehash the good old days and listen to his tales of his latest adventures.
This is not a mystery book, except in very small places. The mystery book parts are not very mysterious as they merely show that Sherlock Holmes was not the writer that John Watson was.
The ‘real’ Sherlock Holmes died with his creator almost eighty years ago, but not before that creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, shipped the old boy off to Sussex to keep bees. Sherlock Holmes is one of those great characters because he exists for the sole purpose of solving the problem, and without a problem to be solved, he was a sad fellow indeed. He drank, took drugs, smoked rather a lot and never had a true love in his life. He died once and came back to life again. In truth, he has been alive ever since.
There are new Sherlock Holmes stories being written all the time. One of my favorite new series of books has the stodgy old bachelor married to a demanding young woman who is a force to be reckoned with. The Bee Keepers Apprentice is the first of the Mary Russell books and is well worth the read. They are more adventure stories than mysteries, but they are fun.
The Sherlock Holmes in A Slight Trick of The Mind is on his last legs. He doesn’t solve the puzzles of a mystery so much as create a subtle longing. This older, wiser Sherlock Holmes misses his old Victorian world where everything seemed to make sense and he was in his prime. Now he sits and ponders why he can’t remember anything and how it is possible to become lost in his own backyard. Like seeing a movie star from the 1950s totter on stage at the Oscars, there is something not quite right about Sherlock Holmes as a old man. And yet, it is a very good book.
The Audio book version of A Slight Trick of The Mind won an Audie Award in 2006 for Best Fiction, Unabridged Compact Disc. Simon Jones does an amazing job of bringing a weary and fading Sherlock Holmes to life. This is a sad book, but it is a quick book. I highly recommend A Slight Trick of the Mindon CD. Great books illicit emotion in the reader and this is a great book.
Update 2013: The latest rumor is that Ian McKellen is to star in A Slight Trick of the Mind movie. I think he is just about perfect for the role.