Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Final Solution -- Michael Chabon

As much as I've enjoyed some of Chabon's other works, I have to admit I wasn't much taken with this one.  It's a novella set in 1944.  An aged beekeeper in Sussex is called in to help the hapless police when a parrot disappears and a man is murdered.  The parrot is the sole companion of a mute boy whom the beekeeper has met previously, and he agrees to help, but only to reunite the two.

While the boy doesn't talk, the parrot does.  He spouts streams of numbers, and no one can decipher their meaning.  The villain believes they're important.  Code?  Or something else?  

Why, you might be asking, do I refer to the beekeeper, when anybody who's ever read a Sherlock Holmes story knows who he is.  That's because Chabon, for reasons only he could give us, doesn't name him.  Seemed a bit lame to me.

I didn't particularly care for the mystery, and while the book's title is fraught with a number of heavy meanings, the ending of the story didn't particularly impress me.

I had to try twice to read this book.  I succeeded the second time, but I didn't think I was well-rewarded.  You might have an entirely different reaction, as apparently many others have.


Rafe McGregor said...

Hi Bill

I also read "The Final Solution" recently, and came away with mixed feelings. I put these down to the fact that I don't read young adult fiction, although I'm not actually sure if that was the market aimed at. You're quite right about "the beekeeper"; failing to name Holmes served absolutely no purpose.

Todd Mason said...

I liked it a lot, and it was originally published in THE PARIS REVIEW, not one of the usual YA sources, but I'm not a fan of the ending, which I think brings in a fantasticated element that seems forced (the critic John Clute, in responding to this contention of mine, suggested that he thinks it neatly reinforces the larger mystery implied by the, up to you, reader, as always).

Not naming Holmes, I think, other than getting around any sticky remaining UK copyright matters, was simply a way of suggesting that Sherlock Holmes was the character, but this was not exactly a Holmes story as Doyle might write and so many others have tried to replicate.

Bill Crider said...

The ending didn't work for me, either, Todd, but Clute's a far more astute critic than I am.

Todd Mason said...

I suspect he might be excessively generous in this case.

David Terrenoire said...

I, too, came away cold from this book and I've liked other things he's written.

I know Chabon is rending his garments knowing I was disappointed.

Howard said...

I've liked Chabon's work, but was a bit disappointed in this. Not naming Holmes becomes just annoying...I've not seen anything where he explains the thinking behind it.

For a better take on Holmes, try Mitch Cullin's "A Slight Trick of the Mind".