I frightened myself silly reading The Hound of the Baskervilles as a child, so sensibly waited until I was an adult before reading any more of Sir Arthur Conan Doyles’ stories*. It seemed like a natural progression to read a story about Sherlock Holmes in his retirement when I came across Mr Holmes by Mitch Cullin.
I never thought I would feel sad for Sherlock Holmes, the most well known fictional detective of all time, with his incredible brain and arrogant attitude, but Mr Holmes showed the man in a whole new light.
In this story Sherlock Holmes is 90 years old, and becoming forgetful. He lives in retirement at his farmhouse in Sussex, attended to by a housekeeper and her young son, tending to his bees, writing a little and snoozing a lot.
Mr Holmes isn’t the mystery story I expected when I started reading, although wherever Sherlock Holmes goes he is recognised and the public continue to request his assistance in various matters. These days he finds this intrusive and actively turns people away. There are deaths in the story, but the story gently reminds people that everyone is born, and so must everyone die.
The character study of Sherlock Holmes is fascinating. Unlike any of the books I read by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes is telling this story, and makes comments from time to time about the unreliability of Dr Watson as a factual writer, although he does credit Dr Watson with being an excellent story-teller. However, after reading Mr Holmes, I believed Sherlock Holmes’ version of events, in that Dr Watson exaggerated and polished the stories for better sales. (I’m not delusional, I know these are fictional characters). There is also an intriguing glimpse of Sherlock falling in love after a fairly superficial involvement with a married woman when he was a much younger man, and in present times, of his affection for his housekeeper’s son.
His failing memory unsettles him, and I felt enormous sympathy for this lonely man who had never formed ongoing relationships with anyone other than Dr Watson and his brother, Mycroft.
The story is sad, but beautiful. I can recommend Mr Holmes to anyone who has enjoyed Sir Arthur Conan Doyles’ stories. I intend to watch the movie of the same name starring Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes as soon as possible.
*If I want to frighten myself now, my imagination is still capable of believing the horrible beast, glowing in the dark, as described and illustrated (shudder) in my abridged, child’s edition of The Hound of the Baskervilles, is waiting in a hidden corner of my backyard to chase me when I take the rubbish out to the bins at night. Thinking about it now, 40 years later (and in the daylight), I can’t believe these editions were aimed at children.