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Bookmarks Issue: 
15-Mar-Apr-2005
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A Story of Detection

A-FinalSolutionThe appearance of a nine-year-old boy walking a railroad line with his grey parrot is a curious enough occurrence in 1944 Sussex, England. The fact that the boy is mute and his parrot sings Strauss and recites strings of numbers in German is enough to make any detective don his thinking cap. When the parrot disappears and a man is killed, the police beg 89-year-old Sherlock Holmes to sort out the mystery. But where Conan Doyle’s detective proceeded with cold deduction, Chabon’s sleuth plumbs the psychological consequences of crime.
Fourth Estate. 131 pages. $16.95. ISBN: 006076340X

Atlanta Jrnl-Constitution 4 of 5 Stars
"He adds a deeper music to the old song of light entertainment and logical solution." Michael Pearson

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"Where Kavalier & Clay seemed overstuffed, [The] Final Solution is so tight it approaches the cryptic, making the surprise ending a knockout. You’ll be done before you know it. Then you might well read it again." Carlo Wolff

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"The power of The Final Solution comes not from its catharsis, but from a refusal to provide one. It purges us of nothing." Deborah Friedell

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Thankfully, though, the freelance detective’s characteristic wit and empathy have not dulled. … A single-sitting read at 131 pages, it’s sweet Chabon candy as we await his next classic." Stuart Eskenazi

Oregonian 2.5 of 5 Stars
"What’s great about The Final Solution is the way Chabon establishes an elegiac feeling around Holmes, who’s looking at the sunset of his life and allows himself a little time to reflect while listening to his metropolis of bees. … 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." Jeff Baker

Washington Post 2 of 5 Stars
"… although the language is often luscious enough to lap up, it leaves a bad taste because Chabon uses a background of genocide for what is essentially a young adult novel …"
Melvin Jules Bukiet

Los Angeles Times 1 of 5 Stars
"It is far from clear what Chabon hoped to achieve with this book, which takes for its title so freighted a phrase, merely glances toward so potent a subject, has several of the earmarks but little of the reverberative meaning of a fable, and only in one brief interlude ever comes at all plausibly to life." Michael Frank

Critical Summary

From his editorship of an issue of McSweeney’s to his Pulitzer Prize-winning Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Chabon has mined genre fiction and pop culture in pursuit of literary gold. His newest novella finds him polishing up the detective story as an unnamed Sherlock Holmes comes out of beekeeping retirement to work the case. Reviewers applaud the fresh approach Chabon takes with Holmes’ character, eschewing analytic genius for emotional complexity. Critics labeled the title’s reference to the Holocaust distasteful, but to be fair, it also ties to The Final Problem, the story in which Sherlock Holmes meets his apparent demise. The plot appears compelling enough, but Chabon’s literary prose pushes critics to a tipping point; some assert there’s more than just a gripping yarn at hand, while others question the combination of detectives, geopolitics, and ten-dollar words.

Also by the Author

The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist Volume 1 (2004): Following the success of his novel Kavalier and Clay, Chabon wrote a series of comic books, collected here, based on the novel’s Escapist comic series.