Book Review: A Slight Trick of the Mind

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A Slight Trick of the Mind was granted to us by Canongate UK. I was intrigued by this title as it was touted to be about the life of Sherlock Holmes in his advanced old age, narrated by Sherlock himself. Readers of some of my reviews know that I hold a particular fondness for elderly men writing about their lives (the reason for this affinity is lost even on me) and I hold a special fondness for when they are writing to, or about, their dearly beloved and already departed spouses (Think of Angus in Terry Fallis’ Best Laid Plans).  Also, last year I read (audiobook) The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz, another fictional account of the (fictional) character of Sherlock Holmes. For The House of Silk, the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate personally picked Horowitz to write this story due to his personal passion for all things Sherlock. As I was deep in my “King and Queen of mystery” reading month, adding this story was a perfect complement.

A Slight Trick of the Mind is simply put, a quiet and enjoyable story written from the perspective of Sherlock, a man now in his 90s with an often failing and inconsistent memory, who finds himself falling asleep often, and awakening in a somewhat confused fog. It is a story very reminiscent of On Canaan’s Side and Bird in the Snow. And perhaps this is why I was pleased to just sit with this, at times melancholic, story about a man existing with his frailty and remembering only in bits and pieces events and people in his life. In particular, he has his bees to tend to, and tells of how they have been receiving excellent care from his housekeeper’s son, Roger. He reminisces about his recent trip to Japan and one particular crime he was approached to solve, a story he was attempting to write in his own hand at the urging of his now past beloved friend Dr. Watson. It is this case that is interwoven through Sherlock’s story – “The Glass Armonica“.

Holmes wasn’t unaware of his memory’s increasing fallibility. He believed he was capable of incorrectly revising past events, especially if the reality of those events were beyond his grasp. But, he wondered, what was revised and what was true? And what was known for certain anymore? More importantly, what exactly had been forgotten? He couldn’t say.

Even so, he adhered to the consistent tangibles – his land, his home, his gardens, his apiary, his work. He enjoyed his cigars, his books, a glass of brandy sometimes. He favored the evening breezes, and the hours after midnight. Without a doubt, he knew that Mrs. Munro’s chatty presence often annoyed him, yet her soft-spoken son had always been a dear, welcomed companion. (page 91 on Kobo)

A Slight Trick of the Mind is a tender and quiet story. It is an ideal piece to read when you are looking for something to spend some quiet reading moments with. It is not a fast-or-action-packed-plot-based story, just a sweet and gentle peek into the memory of a fictional yet classic character.

Indeed, there is quite a draw for this classic and beloved character, as we see here just how large this draw is for all things Sherlock Holmes:  the Museum of London now has an exhibit devoted to Sherlock. This represents the first time in the history of the Museum of London that it devotes an entire exhibition to a person of fiction! Sherlock Holmes has been captivating readers for more than a century. (And is a wonderful accompaniment to the upcoming 125th Celebration Year for Agatha Christie (The Queen of Crime).


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