The Final Solution: A Story of Detection

The Final Solution: A Story of Detection

by Michael Chabon

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In The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, prose magician Michael Chabon conjured the golden age of comic books, interwining history, legend and story-telling verve. In The Final Solution, he has condensed his boundless vision to create a short, suspenseful tale of compassion and wit that re-imagines the classic 19th-century detective story.

In deep retirement in the English countryside, an 89-year old man, vaguely recollected by the locals as a once-famous detective, is more concerned with his bookkeeping than 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 grey parrot. What is the meaning of the mysterious strings of German numbers the bird spews out-a top-secret SS code? The keys to a series of Swiss bank accounts? Or do they hold a significance at once more prosaic and far more sinister?

Though the solution to this last case may be beyond even the reach of the once famed sleuth, the true story of the boy and his parrot is subtly revealed to the reader in a wrenching resolution to this brilliant homage. The Final Solution is a work from a master story-teller at the height of his powers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062319401
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/17/2013
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 192,921
File size: 285 KB

About the Author

Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Moonglow and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, among many others. He lives in Berkeley, California with his wife, the novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their children.


Berkeley, California

Date of Birth:

May 24, 1963

Place of Birth:

Washington, D.C.


B.A., University of Pittsburgh; M.F.A., University of California at Irvine

Read an Excerpt

The Final Solution
A Story of Detection

Chapter One

A boy with a parrot on his shoulder was walking along the railway tracks. His gait was dreamy and he swung a daisy as he went. With each step the boy dragged his toes in the rail bed, as if measuring out his journey with careful ruled marks of his shoetops in the gravel. It was midsummer, and there was something about the black hair and pale face of the boy against the green unfurling flag of the downs beyond, the rolling white eye of the daisy, the knobby knees in their short pants, the self-important air of the handsome gray parrot with its savage red tail feather, that charmed the old man as he watched them go by. Charmed him, or aroused his sense -- a faculty at one time renowned throughout Europe-- of promising anomaly.

The old man lowered the latest number of The British Bee Journal to the rug of Shetland wool that was spread across his own knobby but far from charming knees, and brought the long bones of his face closer to the windowpane. The tracks -- a spur of the Brighton-Eastbourne line, electrified in the late twenties with the consolidation of the Southern Railway routes -- ran along an embankment a hundred yards to the north of the cottage, between the concrete posts of a wire fence. It was ancient glass the old man peered through, rich with ripples and bubbles that twisted and toyed with the world outside. Yet even through this distorting pane it seemed to the old man that he had never before glimpsed two beings more intimate in their parsimonious sharing of a sunny summer afternoon than these.

He was struck, as well, by their apparent silence. It seemed probable to him that in any given grouping of an African gray parrot -- a notoriously prolix species -- and a boy of nine or ten, at any given moment, one or the other of them ought to be talking. Here was another anomaly. As for what it promised, this the old man -- though he had once made his fortune and his reputation through a long and brilliant series of extrapolations from unlikely groupings of facts -- could not, could never, have begun to foretell.

As he came nearly in line with the old man's window, some one hundred yards away, the boy stopped. He turned his narrow back to the old man as if he could feel the latter's gaze upon him. The parrot glanced first to the east, then to the west, with a strangely furtive air. The boy was up to something. A hunching of the shoulders, an anticipatory flexing of the knees. It was some mysterious business -- distant in time but deeply familiar -- yes --

-- the toothless clockwork engaged; the unstrung Steinway sounded: the conductor rail.

Even on a sultry afternoon like this one, when cold and damp did not trouble the hinges of his skeleton, it could be a lengthy undertaking, done properly, to rise from his chair, negotiate the shifting piles of ancient-bachelor clutter -- newspapers both cheap and of quality, trousers, bottles of salve and liver pills, learned annals and quarterlies, plates of crumbs -- that made treacherous the crossing of his parlor, and open his front door to the world. Indeed the daunting prospect of the journey from armchair to doorstep was among the reasons for his lack of commerce with the world, on the rare occasions when the world, gingerly taking hold of the brass door-knocker wrought in the hostile form of a giant Apis dorsata, came calling. Nine visitors out of ten he would sit, listening to the bemused mutterings and fumblings at the door, reminding himself that there were few now living for whom he would willingly risk catching the toe of his slipper in the hearth rug and spilling the scant remainder of his life across the cold stone floor. But as the boy with the parrot on his shoulder prepared to link his own modest puddle of electrons to the torrent of them being pumped along the conductor, or third, rail from the Southern Railway power plant on the Ouse outside of Lewes, the old man hoisted himself from his chair with such unaccustomed alacrity that the bones of his left hip produced a disturbing scrape. Lap rug and journal slid to the floor.

He wavered a moment, groping already for the door latch, though he still had to cross the entire room to reach it. His failing arterial system labored to supply his suddenly skybound brain with useful blood. His ears rang and his knees ached and his feet were plagued with stinging. He lurched, with a haste that struck him as positively giddy, toward the door, and jerked it open, somehow injuring, as he did so, the nail of his right forefinger.

"You, boy!" he called, and even to his own ears his voice sounded querulous, wheezy, even a touch demented. "Stop that at once!"

The boy turned. With one hand he clutched at the fly of his trousers. With the other he cast aside the daisy. The parrot sidestepped across the boy's shoulders to the back of his head, as if taking shelter there.

"Why, do you imagine, is there a fence?" the old man said, aware that the barrier fences had not been maintained since the war began and were in poor condition for ten miles in either direction. "For pity's sake, you'd be fried like a smelt!" As he hobbled across his dooryard toward the boy on the tracks, he took no note of the savage pounding of his heart. Or rather he noted it with anxiety and then covered the anxiety with a hard remark. "One can only imagine the stench."

Flower discarded, valuables restored with a zip to their lodging, the boy stood motionless. He held out to the old man a face as wan and empty as the bottom of a beggar's tin cup ...

The Final Solution
A Story of Detection
. Copyright © by Michael Chabon. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Reading Group Guide


There was nothing remarkable, nothing at all,
about the crooked X that death had scrawled in the dust of Hallows Lane.

What is remarkable, observes a retired detective recruited to help authorities solve a brutal murder behind the town vicarage, is the event that sparked the crime -- the arrival of a mute Jewish boy who escaped Nazi Germany with his exotic African gray parrot. More interested in the pattern of beekeeping than that of the world around him, the once-famous English detective is nudged from self-imposed isolation by his curiosity and, more importantly, by his compassion. For what brings the cynical old man out of retirement isn't the death of a stranger, but, rather, the related disappearance of Bruno -- a parrot that rattles off mysterious chains of numbers in German. With his beloved companion gone, Linus Steinman is a boy lost in the silence of loneliness.

Making tracks to find the missing bird, the 89-year-old detective (a character the author chooses not to name) quickly starts to link together the elements of the case. There is the suspect Reggie Panicker, the minister's angry son who was found with the business card of an exotic bird dealer; the victim Mr. Shane, a lodger at the vicarage; Mr. Parkins, another lodger who had meticulously recorded Bruno's numerical songs; Mr. and Mrs. Panicker, the minister and his wife, who have taken in the broken-spirited Linus, someone who mirrors their own stifled marriage; Mr. Kalb, the handsome gentleman from the Aid Committee who oversees Linus' case; and Linus himself, a "shadow of a boy, stealing through the house, the village, the world."

As the mystery of the murder unravels and the symbolic numbers start to add up, readers will feel privileged to discover the unspeakable secret within The Final Solution -- a secret that is shared only between the boy and his bird ... a truth that eludes even the greatest of detectives.

Discussion Questions

  1. "For the first time in a very many years, he felt the old vexation, the mingled impatience and pleasure at the world's beautiful refusal to yield up its mysteries without a fight" (page 8). Why do you think the arrival of Linus and his parrot awakens the old man's curiosity and passion for detective work?

  2. Discuss the title, The Final Solution, and its dual meaning in the story.

  3. "Then he reached into the old conjuror's pocket ... and took out his glass. It was brass and tortoise shell, and bore around its bezel an affectionate inscription from the sole great friend of his life" (page 29). What meaning does this hold for the readers? What else did you find mysterious about our detective?

  4. "When he heard the old man's name, something flickered, a dim memory, in the eyes of Mr. Kalb" (page 37). "Years and years ago his name -- itself redolent now of the fustian and rectitude of that vanished era -- had adorned the newspapers and police gazettes ... " (page 43). Why do you think the author avoids telling us the name of the 'old man'? Do you think it is an effective technique? Why or why not?

  5. What significance or clues, if any, did you find in the illustrations on pages 7, 34, 76, 89, and 130?

  6. " ... his shame was compounded by the intimate knowledge that Richard Shane's brutal murder in the road behind the vicarage had echoed, in outline and particulars, the secret trend of his own darkest imaginings" (page 94). What are Mr. Panicker's 'darkest imaginings'? Why do you think he is so tortured? How is his marriage used in the book?

  7. "He was, by irremediable nature, a man who looked at things, even when, as now, clearly they terrified him" (page 99). What things do you think terrifies the old man? Be the detective here and piece together what you know about the old man's life.

  8. " ... he was confronted by not simply the continued existence of the city but, amid the smoking piles of brick and jagged windowpanes, by the irrepressible, inhuman force of its expansion" (page 101). Destruction versus hope is a common struggle in war accounts. What do you think makes Chabon's approach to this struggle unique?

  9. Consider the character of the detective: "It would please him well enough to amount to no more in the end than a single great organ of detection, reaching into blankness for a clue" (page 83). "I doubt very much ... if we shall ever learn what significance, if any, those numbers may hold" (page 129). If this is the detective's last case, do you believe he is a success even though he fails to find answers in Bruno's mysterious set of numbers? Why or why not?

  10. The African gray parrot, the old man's bees, and the many references to trains give The Final Solution a rich population of symbols and motifs. Discuss how each contributes to the narrative.

  11. What meaning is hidden in the train song? To whom, and how, is this book an homage? How did you feel when you read the last sentence in The Final Solution?

  12. Consider the theme of detection, discovering the true character of something or someone, within the novella and the detective's conclusion "that it was the insoluble problems -- the false leads and the cold cases -- that reflected the true nature of things" (page 131). Do you agree with this? Why or why not? What other themes did you find in the novella?

About the Author

Michael Chabon is the Pulitzer Prize-winning and bestselling author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. He has received wide critical acclaim for his previous books, including Wonder Boys, Werewolves in their Youth, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, and A Model World. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife and children.

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Final Solution 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 69 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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 achievement, and one that should b
blocher9 More than 1 year ago
This is a relatively short book. Fans of YIDDISH POLICEMAN and KAVALIER AND CLAY will also enjoy this one. Chabon is not prolific in his prose but that is because the man is the architect of some of the most intricate and precise metaphors in the English Language. If I say that James Lee Burke also falls into this category, then readers of this review can evaluate how much they think my opinion is worth. Again, a set of characters Chabon manages to not let fall into stereotypes and an intriguing story line --- but the prose, the PROSE!
SFlibres More than 1 year ago
I had to laugh when I read some of the reviews which gave this novella a low rating. They completely missed the whole point of the plot!! This is a superbly written book, "The Final Solution" a perfect title with multiple deep meanings, and the plot anything but boring!! I loved this book and gave it to my sister to read. She also LOVED it, as did my twelve year old son. Sorry to say, he must be a more insightful and sophisticated reader than some of the reviewers listed here!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a joy to read. The wonderfully imaginative unique world of Michael Chabon is refreshing in the face of countless formulaic novels. If you pick up this book you won't be disappointed.
PghDragonMan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The real mystery in Michael Chabon¿s The Final Solution is not what happened to Bruno the parrot or the significance of the numbers he repeats . . . in German. The mystery is not even who killed Mr. Shane or what his real job was. No, the mystery is who is the curmudgeonly old man with a fondness for a smelly tobacco, wearing outdated cloaks and a mind still surprisingly fit at making great leaps of logic. We are never told his name, but there are a lot of tantalizing clues.The story is set in England of 1944 and Chabon does a credible job of portraying England of the time. I am not enough of an Anglophile to say that it is historically accurate, but the descriptions are vivid enough, I almost felt I was there. The characters were fleshed out enough to do their jobs, tell their story and evoke the proper emotional response in us. The two characters that were the most developed were Bruno, the parrot, and the mystery old man. In the final scenes of the book, we learn more about the parrot¿s background than his human companion. A very strange turn of events, to say the least, and one I enjoyed. The final passage fully explains the numbers, although you probably could have made a close, educated guess before that, and you understand the title.The real hook that kept you reading was the old man and the numerous clues surrounding his identity. While we are never told his name, the astute reader will come across some very obvious references to one of the best known English language heroes ever put to paper. I guess he is still afraid of reprisals against him, so Chabon never reveals his real name. More¿s the credit to keeping the game afoot.I¿m going to stretch my rules a little bit here and go a full five stars for this work. While it is not exactly groundbreaking, Chabon has crafted a wonderful mystery story and shows that brilliant works do not necessarily have to be long, drawn out affairs. In this short work, he has created more of a mystery than many other authors have in twice as many pages. The Final Solution is also far more accessible than his Yiddish Policeman¿s Union and is sure to have a broader appeal.
beccareads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am an unabashed Chabon fan. I will read anything he writes. That said, this was not my favorite. I appreciate a little foray into genre fiction, but the characters just did not grab me. Maybe I picked it up and put it down too often for such a slim volume. I've had friends tell me they don't like Chabon's writing after reading only this book. I sigh. I encourage them to try something else. But I cannot blame them.
angharad_reads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Despite the lush language, this was a quick read. I'm glad, because I know I'll have to read it again. The sentences hovered like honeybees (which shouldn't be capable of flight, but are) on the wings of fine similes over the unsatisfactory ground of McSweeney's-style satirical preciousness. Chock-full of symbolism throughout; should be read in schools. Though, I was astonished by the anachronistic lack of overt racism on the part of the English characters (especially given the author's willingness to use a dated/chauvinistic sexual metaphor early in the book).
MusicMom41 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
his charming novella, set in Great Britain near the end of WWII, tells of a very old, retired police detective who gets involved in solving a case of a missing parrot that belongs to a young boy who is mute because of a war trauma. There is also murder, the possibility of spies, and insight into the lives of more than one character. A very enjoyable read packed into a small form.
hemlokgang on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a poignant, thought provoking novella, which just happens to be a detection story. Detection by fools and philosophers, detection by spies, detectives, and crooks. A truly unique story, which is par for the course with Michael Chabon as far as I am concerned. He is a writer who always has a unique take on a story. Characters include: a parrot, a German orphan who has been rescued from Nazi Germany, a detective turned beekeeper, a spy, a crook, and others. I will be thinking about this story for quite a while.
Lman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Final Solution could perfunctorily, or perfectly, be described as svelte: it is a slender-sized work, my copy a mere 130 pages ¿ a short story, a novella at best. Yet from these few pages comes an urbane tale. A polished, refined story with deference to a much-loved literary character, it is also a mystery within a snippet of world history resulting in a complex premise and an interesting story-line; all with a delicacy of language that is hard to define.When a boy, with a parrot on his shoulder, wanders along a railway line he passes the cottage of a retired police detective, now a beekeeper. The old man¿s instincts ¿ ¿at one time renowned throughout Europe¿ ¿ are aroused in this meeting when the only conversation, from the two, is the bird gently spouting German numbers, with a slight lisp. The boy is a Jewish refugee, repatriated (with his bird) to a boarding house in the English countryside of Sussex, in the care of the Panicker family. When a new lodger at this boarding house is murdered, and the parrot is stolen, the local constabulary turn, somewhat unwillingly, to this crotchety octogenarian for help. In keeping with his character he refuses to consider the murder, but willingly accepts to aid in finding the missing bird.Michael Chabon has, with this book, used a very clever `turn of phrase¿: in the title and all the particulars integral to the plot; and the opportunity to ponder, with affection, a scenario around the twilight years of a favourite literary character ¿ without ever directly nominating him as such. As well, in this slim tome, there are stories within stories: with palpable insight and understanding the author offers a mixture of the society¿s experiences during wartime alongside the mundane aspects of country life, hence the political and social upheaval of the time becoming evident in so many ways. There is a full quota of intriguing characters, not least the African grey parrot, couched in a complicated set of circumstances within the pages of this small, but sublime, chronicle. And the underlying basis - the intent - that answers to all of life¿s little mysteries are not always forthcoming, even to the best of us, is all the more satisfying with the author's economic, and judicious, use of words.
jaybee2008 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
i was sooooo excited to read this and it was soooo boring
jorgearanda on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A bittersweet little tale by Michael Chabon, imagining the last mystery of a decrepit Sherlock Holmes, retired in his bee farm while WWII ravages Europe.
JimElkins on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is "exquisite," as several other reviewers have said. It is skillfully done, it is clever. It is deliberately old fashioned. But I think a reader needs to ask: why write such a book? If this is entertaining, then so is the whimsy and cuteness in "Murder, She Wrote" or the delicate fake nostalgia in Merchant and Ivory films. Late in his life, someone asked Ezra Pound to write a preface to his first book of poems, published when he was young. The early book was called "A lume spento" -- the poems were pretentious, precious, and old fashioned. Pound knew it, can said they were "stale cream puffs." I know that Chabon writes in several different styles, but I am not going to read any of his other books. Why? Because if he thinks something this artificial and concocted is entertaining, then I do not trust his taste. He can't possibly be a writer for the twenty-first century.
annbury on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Intriguing but mannered, leaving me intellectually interested but emotionally unmoved by what is a very moving premise.
KLmesoftly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It was interesting to see Chabon's take on Sherlock Holmes in his old age, and I think the author captured the atmosphere and requisite drama of a murder mystery well--while still toning it down to fit the aging detective. The characters are all interesting and well-developed in the space they're given, enough so that I grew attached to that young boy and his missing parrot.
sturlington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This homage to the Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes mysteries and his famous character didn¿t quite live up to the original, in that the mystery part of the story wasn¿t all that clever or surprising. However, the writing was thoroughly engaging, and the character of the elderly Holmes as seen through Chabon¿s eyes-past his prime and past his time-is very clever indeed.
fyrefly98 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Summary: In this slim little novella Chabon gives us a Sherlock Holmes story - but not a story of the great detective in his prime. Rather, he paints a picture of Holmes as an old man during the height of World War II. He has long since abandoned Baker Street and now lives alone in a small country village, where the villagers want little to do with the cantankerous beekeeper they think of simply as "the old man." However, into his life wanders nine-year-old Linus Steinman, a refugee from Nazi Germany, who is mute and nearly illiterate, but who has a beautiful African gray parrot that recites long strings of seemingly random numbers. Linus and his parrot fascinate the old man, who wonders what the numbers could be - coded German intelligence or bank account numbers? - but when the parrot goes missing, the old man must resurrect his once-famous powers of deduction in order to reunite the orphan with his only friend.Review: While I've read and seen any number of Sherlock Holmes adaptations and spin-offs, I've yet to read any of the real thing. Nevertheless, I feel like I know enough about the mythos in order to identify when it's done well, and Chabon does pull out a neat little story here. It's true that the solution to the mystery of the bird's location didn't require a whole lot of detailed deducing, but came in a single flash of insight, hingeing on a single clue. It's also true that the solution to the mystery of the numbers is presented to us pretty baldly, without any deducing at all (and was also pretty easy to guess.) But, as I expected from Chabon, the writing is so lovely that the rest of it didn't matter so much. This book is full of these long, winding sentences that in anyone else's hands would be tortuous, but Chabon turns them into something lyrical and round and lovely. He does a fine job with the character sketches as well, showing up personalities with the tiniest of details, and his depiction of the 89-year-old Holmes is perfect, and perfectly heartbreaking. Admittedly, this novella is short enough that there's not much "there" there, but what is there is masterfully crafted. 3.5 out of 5 stars.Recommendation: Short enough to be easily read, I'd suggest this to fans of Sherlock Holmes stories, Michael Chabon, and World War II stories that take place somewhere other than the front, although maybe not to people who are looking for a really meaty mystery.
the_awesome_opossum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Final Solution is Michael Chabon's postmodern answer to Sherlock Holmes. "Mysteries" are not so nearly as neatly laid out and the narrative doesn't clearly define every ambiguity. Circumstances extend beyond what is said, and even the most astute detective can't know everything. The once-famous detective is now merely "the old man," a generally anti-social man who has found himself with a mute German boy, and the boy's parrot, to care for. The parrot captures everyone's interest with a string of German numbers it rattles off: a cipher, Swiss bank accounts, a secret code? That's one mystery of the novel; the other is a classic whodunnit murder. Yet the ambiguities that Chabon allows to remain unresolved, or barely hinted at, put the detective genre to rest, even as the novel serves as an homage. Life, its complexities and messiness, exists beyond what's on paper, and any reductivity otherwise simply isn't workable.
LaurieRKing on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brilliant, intense, poetic exploration of a mind beset by great age. Oh yes-the mind is that of Sherlock Holmes.
mikemillertime on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Needlessly dense and obtuse prose cannot pretty up this very boring story, which also strives to complicate its paper thin plot with distracting subplots and useless details. But this mystery's worst crime is an entirely predictable ending to the whodunnit.
ABookVacation on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
No point. No resolution. Chapters jump from one thing to the next, and leave out tons of information, it's like we're just supposed to know the answers. It seems to have to real line of thought, and the main question, from the book jacket about the parrot, remains unanswered. The characters aren't built up, so you don't even care what happens to them. How did this win any awards? Piece of crap.
themulhern on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mediocre and predictable but literate and reasonably well crafted.
mrkay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fun tale of mystery told more through the nuances of social relationships than of the mysterious powers of deduction. Interesting play on character as the old man (a well known impressionable sleuth in his youth) comes to terms with his reasoning prowess as well as age. My favorite was the chapter presented by Bruno, an African parrot, who describes his world through his understanding of events. Chabon does powerful things with his characters as they interact with one another, often subtle their imperfections kind of wash over the reader as one reaches for the plot. This reflection of our social mores is a powerful tool and may be overlooked by the simplicity of the storytelling.
souleswanderer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This read a little too over the top, especially in the lengthy drawn out descriptive passages, of which there are plenty. Overall, not a bad little story with it's nod to Arthur Conan Doyle's character long beyond retirement age, if one were to believe he could ever retire. One is never outright told the old man portrayed is Sherlock Holmes, in his twilight years, but every reference is a clear signpost to that conclusion. Rather detracting was the author's want to see just how much description could be applied to everything.
benjclark on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The longer this story settles into my mind, the better and better it is-- both as a story, but also technically. Chabon's writing is of such a high caliber, he can outshine his own plotting, characters, etc. Not showing off, mind you-- just so very good that it can make the writing appear, instead of the story. Perfect in length, and a great read for lifelong fans of the greatest Consulting Detective. I'd recommend to Sherlock Holmes fans, bird people, World War II buffs, and Writers with a captial W.