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The Final Solution. A Story of Detection (2004)

by Michael Chabon

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,6891543,345 (3.4)176
In deep retirement in the English countryside, an 89-year-old man, vaguely recollected by the locals as a former detective, is more concerned with his beekeeping 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 numbers the bird spews out-a top secret SS code? A Swiss bank account? Or do they hold a far more sinister significance? Though the solution to this case may be beyond the reach of the once-famed sleuth, the true story of the boy and his parrot is revealed in a wrenching resolution.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 149 (next | show all)
I'm having trouble coming to terms with this book. Add it on the pile of my ambivalence about Michael Chabon. I think the thing that bugs me the most is the potential for greatness here.

An aging Sherlock Holmes is coming to terms with the fact that he is no longer in his prime and preparing himself for death and battling senility? Awesome, awesome premise. As a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes, I usually refuse to touch modern interpretations, because I don't trust authors to give me what Conan Doyle did to make Holmes so compelling. On this aspect, Chabon mostly delivers: he captures Holmes' greatness in his dedication and flashes of brillance and tempers it with his moodiness and self-destructiveness. It's not, by any stretch of the imagination, a Holmes mystery, though, failing in the complete lack of explanation of how Holmes deduces anything (and really, failing as a compelling mystery all over.) Holmes is aging, his brain isn't what it used to be, don't tell us that, show us by having Holmes try his famous Holmes deduction. Show us him missing clues, or thinking slowly, or coming to the wrong conclusions. It's an insanely original, compelling idea, that mostly only reaches it's full potential when Holmes reflects on a post-Blitz London with anger that London still exists in the post-Holmes area and that the Blitz and WWI have allowed it to change and grow into something else. I love the idea of what happens to the characters we love when they move past what they once were.

I think the big reason that this book fails is that while Chabon is good at many things, the novella is not an ideal format. His books become compelling over time, as you become more enmeshed with the characters. Pages give his language room to proliferate and his sprawling sentences feel less suffocating in longer books. There are so many ideas here, ripe for the picking. I can't possible imaging saying to myself "I have an idea for a book that's about an aging Holmes, in WWII, meeting a mute orphan, who will act as his foil, who has a parrot, who knows secret numbers, which may be the key to German codes, prompting discussion of the lengths one will go for national loyalty and exploring the tension between commitment to country and commitment to Jewish orphaned refuges in the middle of the holocaust, while also discussing the morally grey characters who form this boy's foster family and I want this story to be an exemplar of the modern mystery novel. That sounds like it can be done in 170 pages!" Everything loses in the brevity.

What really bothers me is that in the author's note, Chabon writes about the respect he has for "genre novels" and that he wants people who normally don't read genre to pick up this book and it to make them want to go back and read more mysteries. It's insulting to authors who frequently write genre. I agree that genre can be the most compelling form of fiction; it's freed from constraints; it can explore the worlds of possibilities and use that to reflect on the way our world is. This is not a great genre novel, and although Chabon has been a great friend to the melding of genre and literature in Kavalier and Clay (superhero/comic book) and Yiddish Policeman's Union (a much better version of mystery/noir), he should have left this one to the mystery writers. ( )
  settingshadow | Aug 19, 2023 |
No review - read so long ago that I don't recall it. ( )
  mykl-s | Aug 12, 2023 |
Reason read: TIOLI Read a book of F or NF by an author. I read [Bookends] by Chabon so also read this one.

This is a short work, novella length. It is a work of detection by an old, geriatric bee keeper detective. Other characters include a mute Jewish boy and his vocal gray parrot and a bunch of other characters. A death occurs and a theft of a parrot and thus a "who dun it". The setting is near the end of WWII in England. "The Final Solution" to Jewish question by Nazis.

Collier's, 1903, illustrated by Frederick Dorr Steele. It's 1903, and Sherlock Holmes, England's most famous consulting detective, retires at age forty-nine to become a beekeeper on his small farm on the Sussex Downs.

I enjoyed it. Love the cover art. The book's cover and illustrations were drawn by Jay Ryan. I might have to recreate it for my personal enjoyment.

genre: literary pastiche. ( )
  Kristelh | Jul 29, 2023 |
For more reviews and bookish posts please visit https://www.ManOfLaBook.com

The Final Solution by Michael Chabon is a short detective novel set in England, 1944. Mr. Chabon is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, screenwriter, columnist, and short story writer.

Linus Steinman is a young Jewish boy, a German refugee staying with an Anglican priest and his family. The boy has a parrot, Bruno, who constantly rattles off numbers in German. There’s much speculation about the numbers, from a secret military code to nonsense.

Another lodger, Mr. Shane of the British foreign office is found dead, and Bruno the parrot missing. Michael Bellows, the local inspector, asks for help from an old man, a beekeeper and former detective, to find Bruno and help solve the murder.

I have been a fan of the author ever since picking up the fantastic novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. I didn’t know it, but this novella is about Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation Sherlock Holmes, even though he’s never mentioned by name.

The Final Solution by Michael Chabon encompasses two mysteries, the murder of Mr. Shane, and the German numbers that Bruno, the parrot, keeps repeating.

The numbers are the real mystery of the book and could have not been ascertained in 1944 England, even by its most famous detective. The other murder mystery is just a convenient way to get the old detective involved, but it’s not difficult to solve the puzzle, even for a schmo like me.

One of the last chapters, from the point of view of Bruno the parrot, was, for me, what has elevated this book. That chapter was Chabon in his element, I only wished we would have gotten another chapter, or two.

The prose is beautiful, and I enjoyed reading the book. At times it seemed as if Mr. Chabon is trying to impress by using big words, for me, however, it worked within the spirit of the book. Unlike many other detective stories, this book attempts to capture much bigger questions about life.

Even though Holmes solves the case he has been assigned to, the haunting story of Linus Steinman is the real emotional kicker. Mr. Chabon expects the reader to do their own detective work and figure out what the numbers signify, which is not difficult. ( )
  ZoharLaor | Nov 17, 2022 |
This book is spectacular.

It is very short, it has illustrations, and it keeps the reader entertained throughout.

This is a story about a small mute Jewish refugee boy and his parrot; a parrot that sings and recites a list of numbers in German.

There is an old man who was once a great detective but who now only wishes to live out his life with his honeybees but who gets tapped to help locate the parrot when it goes missing.

Much like a Sherlock Holmes mystery (in fact, its name is similar to a Holmes mystery: The Final Problem) this intrigue involves detection through intense observation. The old man, who has no name, goes about the investigation along with another detective who at once thinks the old man is full of shit and is the best detective he's ever seen.

There are several things this story does at once: it explores a Holocaust narrative through the mute boy (Linus) and his parrot, and it looks at the horrors of war (the ability to speak or not about what Linus may or may not have seen), the actual horror of Jews being transported to camps (the numbers the parrot recites), and how people react to the choice of the parrot and Linus to speak or not.

All these stories on top of a murder mystery, kidnapping/stolen item mystery make a story worth reading for everyone.

**All thoughts and opinions are my own.** ( )
  The_Literary_Jedi | May 31, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 149 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Chabon, Michaelprimary 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
First words
A boy with a parrot on his shoulder was walking along the railroad 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.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

In deep retirement in the English countryside, an 89-year-old man, vaguely recollected by the locals as a former detective, is more concerned with his beekeeping 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 numbers the bird spews out-a top secret SS code? A Swiss bank account? Or do they hold a far more sinister significance? Though the solution to this case may be beyond the reach of the once-famed sleuth, the true story of the boy and his parrot is revealed in a wrenching resolution.

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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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