Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Final Solution: Review

Billed as a "suspenseful tale of compassion and wit that reimagines the classic nineteenth-century detective story" and set with "subtle revelations [that] lead the reader to a wrenching resolution." The Final Solution is about an elderly man who is in retirement deep in the English countryside. Villagers vaguely recall that he was once a famous detective up in London. Now his door is pretty well closed to the outside world and all that interests him is his beekeeping. But then he meets up with Linus Steinman, a nine-year-old boy who has escaped from Nazi Germany--alone and apparently mute with only an African gray parrot as his companion. The bird is known for the strings of German numbers which it recites. What is their meaning? Is it a top secret Nazi code? Combinations to Swiss bank accounts? Or maybe something far more dangerous. Soon there is murder done and the bird disappears. Will the elderly sleuth get to the bottom of it?

This is actually a reread for me. But other than remembering that
The Final Solution was about an unnamed elderly beekeeper (who we all assume is Holmes) and a boy with a parrot, I remembered nothing else about it. So, when my Follow That Blurb Challenge journey brought me to Michael Chabon I decided to refresh my memory--and also provide a real-live review of the book since it had been read in my pre-reviewing days.

I was mildly disappointed. Oh, Michael Chabon can write. He even manages to bring off the mannered writing that goes along with Holmesian fare. But if it's a tribute (or "brilliant homage" as the synopsis claims) to the master then it falls a bit flat. I don't want to spoil let me just say that the final mystery isn't much. One expects a build up to possible Nazi codes and intrigue to actually lead somewhere. I mean, after all, this is Holmes we're talking about. Sure, he may be 89 years old but give the man a puzzle worthy of him. The clue (yes, indeed, that is clue singular) is clumsily presented and the denouement isn't all that exciting--and certainly not wrenching. I do see the overtones. I do "get" what the title of the story is referring to. But, honestly, it's quite heavy-handed in all the wrong places. I liked the interactions between the boy and the Holmes character. That was extraordinarily well done. More of that and I would be handing out a much higher rating. Three stars--just.

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