13 January 2008

Michael Chabon, The Final Solution, 2005

In 1944 a silent German boy arrives in Sussex as a refugee, with a talkative African Grey parrot on his shoulder. The parrot goes missing, a murder ensues and a veteran detective comes out of retirement. The influence of Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ stories is clearly there above and beyond the usual trappings of mystery fiction, and the story also functions as a self-contained microcosm the same way that Agatha Christie’s ‘Miss Marple’ stories do, in that by knowing the ways of her village she knows the ways of the world; similarly, over the years the detective has developed an almost extrasensory intuition about people’s unseen behavioural patterns, and also seems to know what is in the air by the temperament of the bees he keeps. Michael Chabon, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001, writes with an extraordinary confidence in his own words that could almost convince you he’d spent time back in that era, and he quickly gets to the weary soul of the elderly detective, necessary for the reader to see how the detective himself gets to the heart of the matter. Impressive.  PY

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