Tag Archives: holmes

Rewind ~ “Mr. Holmes” and “The Final Solution”


I’m on vacation in Omaha this week! In light of the recent release of Mr. Holmes, here are my “Rewind” thoughts on the movie’s source material and Michael Chabon’s similar work.

Mr. Holmes by Mitch Cullin

Cover via Goodreads

It is 1947, and the long-retired Sherlock Holmes lives in a remote Sussex farmhouse with his housekeeper and her young son. He tends to his bees, writes in his journal, and grapples with the diminishing powers of his mind.

But in the twilight of his life, as people continue to look to him for answers, Holmes revisits a case that may provide him with answers of his own to questions he didn’t even know he was asking – about life, about love, and about the limits of the mind’s ability to know. (via Goodreads)

When I read this book in 2010, it was under the name A Slight Trick of the Mind, which I prefer, but I can understand the change. My thoughts at the time:

This Sherlock Holmes is 93 years old and dealing with slight dementia, an old body, and all the questions that might come at the end of a man’s life. Of course, Sherlock Holmes is supposed to be the man that has the answers when he asks questions. What happens when he doesn’t? This is a novel firmly within the literary “genre.” We’re examining the inner life of a character, not terribly concerned with discrete events of a plot. I liked this book; it will undoubtedly stick with me…

Of particularly Holmesian things, the novel does not have Watson, drug abuse, or Irene Adler. It does very much have an apiary. I’m noting this because I think it will be interesting what authors decide to focus on or not.

I was, in early 2010, reading all things Holmes. My next book that year was

The Final Solution by Michael Chabon

Cover via Goodreads

In deep retirement in the English countryside, an eighty-nine-year-old man, vaguely recollected by locals as a once-famous detective, is more concerned with his beekeeping than with his fellow man. Into his life wanders Linus Steinman, nine years old and mute, who has escaped from Nazi Germany with his sole companion: an African gray parrot.

What is the meaning of the mysterious string of German numbers the bird spews out – a top secret SS code? The keys to a series of Swiss bank accounts perhaps? Or something more sinister? Is the solution to this last case – the real explanation of the mysterious boy and his parrot – beyond even the reach of the once-famed sleuth? (via Goodreads)

My thoughts from March 6, 2010:

There are many similarities between The Final Solution and Mitch Cullin’s A Slight Trick of the Mind. Both deal with Holmes in his twilight years; a Holmes with physical maladies that frustrate his ability to function. Chabon’s Holmes has less mental problems. Both have retired from public life and intend to spend the remainder of life quietly keeping bees. Both novels have small boys that become important to Holmes. Both novels deal with the experience of the World Wars; Chabon’s novelette set before/during WWII and Cullin’s after. Neither include Watson or the notorious drug abuse. The primary difference is that Chabon’s novel is more direct detective story. A crime occurs; Holmes solves it. Nevertheless, The Final Solution is still a “literary” novel (though Chabon takes some exception to the label). The story does have a serious and poignant historical overlay which is presented more subtly than in Cullin’s book. It’s a lovely, quick read.

Review ~ The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

Cover via Goodreads

Holmes and Watson are faced with their most terrifying case yet. The legend of the devil-beast that haunts the moors around the Baskerville families home warns the descendants of that ancient clan never to venture out in those dark hours when the power of evil is exalted. Now, the most recent Baskerville, Sir Charles, is dead and the footprints of a giant hound have been found near his body. Will the new heir meet the same fate? (via Goodreads)

Back during the Readers Imbibing Peril event, Amanda at Simpler Pastimes hosted The Hound of the Baskervilles read-a-long. As good as that sounded, I was super busy in October and had vowed not to over-extend myself. So I penciled in my own reread of Hound for January/February. In her thoughts about Hound, Amanda mentioned The Castle of Otranto, which I later recognized as part of the Gothic Reading Challenge and decided to more directly pair the two.

The Hound of the Baskervilles was published (and probably written) after Doyle had killed off Sherlock Holmes in “The Final Problem.” Can you imagine how excited the reading public was to get more Holmes after nearly a decade? Except… Hound is pretty light on Holmes. Watson does a lot of investigating on his own and Holmes swoops in near the end with the last puzzle piece. It’s a decent mystery, but it’s a better gothic novel.

We have a lustful villain, a family curse, secret marriages, people creeping about dark houses, a chase, and potential supernatural elements. Doyle does it all very atmospherically. I was a little surprised at the convict sub-plot which I didn’t remember. “Well, as long as he’s fleeing to South America and not hanging around…” is not really the height of prison reform.

Publishing info, my copy: I started out using a complete Sherlock Holmes edition on my Kindle, but it was slow going with little external feedback on progress. I finished with Barnes & Noble Books, 1992, Hardback
Acquired: At a Barnes & Noble, possibly the one I frequented in Lincoln, NE
Genre: mystery, gothic
Previously: I was probably about 11 when I first tore through Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories.
See Also: Tim Prasil recently covered the 1983 film version of the story, starring Ian Richardson, in his In the Shadow of Rathbone feature.