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The Final Solution: A Story of Detection…

The Final Solution: A Story of Detection (P.S.) (original 2004; edition 2005)

by Michael Chabon

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2,9861251,911 (3.39)118
Title:The Final Solution: A Story of Detection (P.S.)
Authors:Michael Chabon
Info:Harper Perennial (2005), Paperback, 160 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:literary, mystery, illustrated, read in 2012, 12 in 12 Challenge

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The Final Solution. A Story of Detection by Michael Chabon (2004)

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Showing 1-5 of 120 (next | show all)
Near the end of WWII in the English countryside, a boy is walking along the railroad tracks with a parrot on his shoulder. An old man looks up from his bee-keeping journal to see that the boy is dangerously close to touching the live "third rail" of the tracks. The old man drags is 89 yr old frame out of his chair and out of his house to stop him. He discovers that the boy doesn't talk and the parrot is talking, but only in numbers, and in German.

Thus begins a quaint little novella that brings the old man (who the locals know once used to be a detective of some renown) into a mystery with nazi spies, a missing bird, and secret codes. Is the old man up to the challenge? The game is afoot.

I'm jaded because Chabon is one of my favorite authors, but this was a fun little read. When I first picked it up, I thought it was the basis for the movie; Mr. Holmes. But I was wrong, at any rate, it was a very enjoyable read.


S: 9/25/16 - F: 9/30/16 (6 Days) ( )
  mahsdad | Oct 16, 2016 |
Maybe only 3.5 stars; I can't really decide. It's certainly different from Kavalier & Clay. For one it's about 1/5 the length! A word of advice - don't read this as a page-turning mystery, but rather savor the grace, ideas and characterizations. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
I knew when I picked up this book that it was a Sherlock Holmes tribute, but somehow I’d managed to forget that fact by the time I started reading it. I’m kind of glad I had… I came to the story without expectations, and very much enjoyed it. It might disappoint some readers who expect a more traditional mystery, but I found this tale of an orphaned Jewish refugee in England to be both clever and moving. When the boy’s pet parrot goes missing, an elderly, retired detective is motivated to take up the case. Suspicions reach up to the highest levels and may involve government secrets.

Finishing up the book – I missed my subway stop, AND I cried at the end. That’s a recommendation.
( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
The Final Solution takes place in rural England during World War II. An elderly man, once a famous detective, has a chance encounter with a mute German boy and his African grey parrot. When a man is murdered at the house the boy is staying at and the parrot disappears, the police ask the old man to help solve the crime, but he only agrees to help find the boy’s beloved parrot.

I find it takes me a while to get in to Chabon’s novels, and this one was no exception. However, at only 130 pages, it just wasn’t long enough to take that long to get in to. I’m also not sure if this was meant to be primarily a character study of the old man or if it was meant to be plot-driven. I think Chabon did some of both, but there just wasn’t time in a novel that short to fully develop both a complicated character and an intricate plot. The old man and the boy are both charming characters in the own ways, and I would have liked to have gotten to know them better.

Overall, I didn’t find this to be a bad book, but it wasn’t particularly good either. I think The Amazing Adventures of Kavelier and Clay is a much better book, and I continued to think about that one long after I finished it, while I won’t give this one a second thought. ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
The Final Solution opens in Sussex Downs England in the summer of 1944. Sherlock Holmes (though never actually named), has retired from a fruitful career of crime solving in favor of a quieter life of beekeeping in the English countryside. True to form, he takes his hobby seriously-even going so far as to import a new specimen of been from Texas. Otherwise, he is more or less your typical, old curmudgeon (are we really surprised? I found this a delightful portrayal of an 89 year old Holmes).

Holmes finds his curiosity piqued by the appearance of young, mute Jewish-German immigrant boy named Linus who is constantly in the company of his beloved pet parrot. The parrot, named Bruno, regularly chants a seemingly random string of German numbers.

In the course of an evening, we find Mr. Shane, a British Foreign Officer, murdered and Bruno missing. It is assumed the bird was stolen in the interest of decoding the numbers he recites, thought to be some sort of military code or Swiss bank account number. Holmes decides to come out of retirement to assist the local police department, but only to help recover Bruno.

"here was a puzzle to kindle old appetites and energies. He felt pleased with himself for having roused his bent frame from the insidious grip of his armchair."

On the surface, this seems like a light read. The book itself is relatively short, the general story of recovering and returning a beloved child's pet is a sweet one, and who doesn't love the idea of a cantankerous old Sherlock Holmes on one last adventure? However, with a second and deeper look, this story is a lot more powerful.

There are really three mysteries presented here: the murder of Mr. Shane, the theft of Bruno, and the meaning of the numbers. While the first two cases are pretty easily cracked by Holmes, Chabon never reveals to the reader the meaning of the German numbers, and they seem to remain a mystery to Holmes himself.

“I doubt very much,” the old man said, “if we shall ever learn what significance, if any, those numbers may hold.”

This gives the reader a chance to play detective.

In the chapter narrated by Bruno himself, he refers to the string of numbers as the "train song". The allusion to trains seems to underscore some gravely traumatic event in Linus's life, which rendered him (mostly) mute. Given what we know-that this takes place during WWII, that Linus is a Jewish-German immigrant with no family, that historically trains were often used to transport Jews to concentration camps-we can assume that Linus is experiencing post traumatic stress in the form of isolated flashbacks of trains and the "train song" refers to the numbers on the boxcars. Perhaps Holme's inability to unravel they mystery of the numbers is a reflection of the sad times the characters find themselves in. The loss of rationale and moral order in the world-the horror of the Holocaust and the war in general-go beyond even the power of Holmes's deductive reasoning.

"The application of creative intelligence to a problem, the finding of a solution at once dogged, elegant, and wild, this had always seemed to him to be the essential business of human beings— the discovery of sense and causality amid the false leads, the noise, the trackless brambles of life. And yet he had always been haunted— had he not?— by the knowledge that there were men, lunatic cryptographers, mad detectives, who squandered their brilliance and sanity [...]"

Perhaps for die hard Sherlock fans, the simplicity of the case solving might be underwhelming. But we have to remember, we're not, in fact, reading Doyle here. This is Chabon's *take* on the classic detective. And he brings something a lot more meaningful and poignant to the tale. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Chabon's writing really sparkled here, and it was the kind of book that, once completed, left me wanting to have a long discussion about it. Perfect for a book club. ( )
  LaurenMae85 | Jul 31, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Michael Chabonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ryan, JayIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
York, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The distinction's always fine between detection and invention. - Mary Jo Salter
To the memory of Amanda Davis, first reader of these pages
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A boy with a parrot on his shoulder was walking along the railroad tracks.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
The Final Solution is a 2004 novel by Michael Chabon. It is a detective story that in many ways pays homage to the writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and other writers of the genre. The story, set in 1944, revolves around an unnamed 89-year-old long-retired detective (who may or may not be Sherlock Holmes but is always called just "the old man"), now interested mostly in beekeeping, and his quest to find a missing parrot, the only friend of a mute Jewish boy. The title of the novel references Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story "The Final Problem," in which Holmes confronts his greatest enemy, Professor Moriarty, at Reichenbach Falls, and the Final Solution, the Nazis' plan for the genocide of the Jewish people.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060777109, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:23 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

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?… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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