|The Barnes & Noble Review|
This Michael Chabon experiment with genre fiction -- a follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize winner, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay -- is marked by a notable richness of character and playfulness of plot. Set in sleepy southern England in 1944, the story introduces a nine-year-old refugee, clearly intelligent but mute, and his constant companion, an African Gray parrot who spouts strings of numbers in German. Joining their ranks are a now-unbelieving Malayan minister and his underappreciated English wife, a few of their shady boardinghouse neighbors (one of whom turns up dead), and several inept police officers. When the parrot goes missing, who better to sort out the mystery but a pipe-smoking, beekeeping, 89-year-old retired detective who just happens to live in the neighborhood?
Arthur Conan Doyle fans will remember the last Sherlock Holmes book, The Final Problem, and get the reference right away. Though Chabon never calls his elderly detective by name, Holmes's spirit is decidedly alive in these pages.
Originally published as a novella in the Paris Review, the story is distinguished by its tightness and clean prose. Chabon's knack for giving even the parrot a certain realness and spark (along with a quirky insight that we would not expect) emerges as the real meat of this entertaining fiction. The Final Solution is a pleasing addition to the genre and a satisfying nod to Arthur Conan Doyle himself. Elizabeth McMillan