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The Final Solution: A Story of Detection (P.S.)by Michael Chabon
Synopses & Reviews
In the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, prose magician Michael Chabon conjured up the golden age of comic books — intertwining history, legend, and storytelling verve. In The Final Solution, he has condensed his boundless vision to craft a short, suspenseful tale of compassion and wit that reimagines the classic nineteenth-century detective story.
In deep retirement in the English country-side, 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 strings 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?
Subtle revelations lead the reader to a wrenching resolution. This brilliant homage, which won the 2004 Aga Khan Prize for fiction, is the work of a master storyteller at the height of his powers.
"Initially published in the Paris Review in 2003, Chabon's first significant adult fiction since his Pulitzer-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000) continues his sophisticated, if here somewhat skewed, appropriation of pop artifacts — in this case one of the greatest pop artifacts of all, Sherlock Holmes. As fans of the great detective know, after retirement Holmes moved from London to Sussex, where he spent his days keeping bees. Chabon's story takes place during WWII, when Holmes is 89 and intent on bee-keeping only — until a mysterious boy wanders into town. The boy is remarkable for two reasons: he's clearly intelligent but is mute, and he keeps a parrot that mouths, among other utterances, numbers in German. When the parrot is stolen, local cops turn to Holmes, and he's intrigued enough to dust off his magnifying glass and go to work. The writing here is taut and polished, and Chabon's characters and depictions of English country life are spot on. It's notable, though, that Chabon refers to Holmes never by name but persistently as 'the old man' — notable because it's difficult to discern a reason other than self-conscious artistry not to name Holmes; the scenes in the novel that grip the strongest are those that feature Holmes, and more credit is due to Conan Doyle than to Chabon for that. Neither a proper mystery nor particularly fine literature, this haunting novella, for all its strengths, lies uneasily between the two and will fully please few fans of each." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Chabon's move into the world of detective fiction produces mostly admirable results....A fun, short snip of a detective yarn that, even so, leaves more questions than answers." Kirkus Reviews
"[T]he descriptive passages...are exceptional, on par with the best, most tightly written sections of [Kavalier and Clay]. And so Chabon makes good on his claim: a successful detective story need not be lacking in literary merit." Deborah Friedell, The New York Times Book Review
"Chabon's writing can be both startlingly clear or laced with intricacies and detours. One chapter is told from the point of view of the parrot." School Library Journal
"Perhaps most striking about the novel...is the author's pure, exuberant delight in language." BookPage
"[A] blandish kind of mystery tale, with no clear audience, no discernible necessity, and so only a modestly satisfying conclusion." The Boston Globe
"[Chabon's] new novella...
"A single-sitting read at 131 pages, it's sweet Chabon candy as we await his next classic....This novella is one delicious snack." Seattle Times
"Although The Final Solution begins in a confusing fashion, it settles down into a deceptively profound tale that reflects on the lengths to which humans will go to crack the inscrutability of the Holocaust's evil." Cleveland Plain Dealer
"What's great about The Final Solution is the way Chabon establishes an elegiac feeling around Holmes...What's not so great is the plot, which involves a stolen parrot and a murder and secrets from a Nazi concentration camp. It's mildly absorbing but never really takes off." The Oregonian (Portland, OR)
Retired to the English countryside, an eighty-nine-year-old man, rumored to be 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 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 both more prosaic and far more sinister?
Though the solution may be beyond even the reach of the once-famous sleuth, the true story of the boy and his parrot is subtly revealed in a wrenching resolution.
About the Author
Michael Chabon is the Pulitzer Prize?winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their four children.
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