Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Final Solution

The Final Solution

3.5 24
by Michael Chabon

See All Formats & Editions

Retired to the English countryside, an eighty-nine-year-old man, rumored to be a once-famous detective, is more concerned with his beekeeping than with his fellow man. Into his life wanders Linus Steinman, nine years old and mute, who has escaped from Nazi Germany with his sole companion: an African gray parrot.

What is the meaning of the mysterious strings


Retired to the English countryside, an eighty-nine-year-old man, rumored to be a once-famous detective, is more concerned with his beekeeping than with his fellow man. Into his life wanders Linus Steinman, nine years old and mute, who has escaped from Nazi Germany with his sole companion: an African gray parrot.

What is the meaning of the mysterious strings of German numbers the bird spews out -- a top-secret SS code? The keys to a series of Swiss bank accounts? Or do they hold a significance both more prosaic and far more sinister?

Though the solution may be beyond even the reach of the once-famous sleuth, the true story of the boy and his parrot is subtly revealed in a wrenching resolution.

Editorial Reviews

Christian Science Monitor
“Michael Chabon, is, simply, the coolest writer in America.”
Denver Post
“A knockout…you’ll be done before you know it. Then you might well read it again.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Packed with gorgeous writing…a knockout. You’ll be done before you know it. Then you might well read it again.”
Baltimore Sun
“The writing is everything that Chabon’s fans expect--gorgeous, muscular, mildly melancholic…wonderfully executed.”
Hartford Courant
“Simple and startlingly sad…Chabon has created a minor masterpiece.”
San Francisco Chronicle (Best Books of 2004)
“Chabon’s writing here is elegant and limber…[The Final Solution] is a little mystery story with big ideas.”
“Exuberant…the real mystery is how Chabon managed to fit so much hope and humanity into such a brief tale.”
Louisville Courier Journal
“Delightful…and deceptively profound...Chabon shows his greatness.”
New York magazine
“A profound pleasure.”
Buffalo News
“Infused with a graceful, elegiac atmosphere…wrought with innovative construction, glittering with epiphany…remarkable.”
The Forward
“Brilliant and unswervingly entertaining.”
The New York Sun
“One of the best-written American novels published this fall . . . an experiment by a master.”
Miami Herald
“Watching Chabon skillfully zigzag between literary and genre is half the fun of the book…refreshing.”
(Best Books of 2004) - San Francisco Chronicle
"Chabon’s writing here is elegant and limber…[The Final Solution] is a little mystery story with big ideas."
New York Magazine
"A profound pleasure."
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

Publishers Weekly
Initially published in the Paris Review in 2003, Chabon's first significant adult fiction since his Pulitzer-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000) continues his sophisticated, if here somewhat skewed, appropriation of pop artifacts-in this case one of the greatest pop artifacts of all, Sherlock Holmes. As fans of the great detective know, after retirement Holmes moved from London to Sussex, where he spent his days keeping bees. Chabon's story takes place during WWII, when Holmes is 89 and intent on bee-keeping only-until a mysterious boy wanders into town. The boy is remarkable for two reasons: he's clearly intelligent but is mute, and he keeps a parrot that mouths, among other utterances, numbers in German. When the parrot is stolen, local cops turn to Holmes, and he's intrigued enough to dust off his magnifying glass and go to work. The writing here is taut and polished, and Chabon's characters and depictions of English country life are spot on. It's notable, though, that Chabon refers to Holmes never by name but persistently as "the old man"-notable because it's difficult to discern a reason other than self-conscious artistry not to name Holmes; the scenes in the novel that grip the strongest are those that feature Holmes, and more credit is due to Conan Doyle than to Chabon for that. Neither a proper mystery nor particularly fine literature, this haunting novella, for all its strengths, lies uneasily between the two and will fully please few fans of each. (Nov. 12) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Roused out of retirement, a former detective, now a beekeeper, is identified only as "the old man." The story opens in the summer of 1944 when he sees a boy with a parrot on his shoulder walking along the train tracks. The boy is Linus Steinman, a refugee from Nazi Germany who lives with Mr. and Mrs. Panicker and their grown son in their boardinghouse. Though Linus doesn't speak, his parrot, Bruno, recites strings of numbers in German, as well as bits of poetry and snatches of songs. When a boarder is murdered and Bruno is kidnapped, the local police try to engage the beekeeper in helping them solve the crimes. He agrees to help, but only to find the bird. Thus begins his last case, his "final solution." The double meaning of the title gives subtle layers to the story and reveals the man's deep compassion for Linus. Chabon's writing can be both startlingly clear or laced with intricacies and detours. One chapter is told from the point of view of the parrot. Readers will enjoy the realistic characters and lush descriptions, and, best of all, trying to figure out the mysteries. Even the identity of "the old man" is a mystery until they figure out the clues for themselves-the tweed suit, the pipe, the beekeeping, and the sharp mind that can only belong to one famous sleuth.-Susanne Bardelson, Kitsap Regional Library, WA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In wartime England, an old sleuth comes out of retirement to solve the case of a mute boy and his parrot, and their connection to a murder. Chabon's move into the world of detective fiction (after The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, 2000, etc.) produces mostly admirable results. The year is 1944, the setting a remote British village. The retired detective who lives there in rather fearsome solitude-tending to his beekeeping-is brought back to work by the local constabulary after a recent visitor to the village turns up murdered. It's suspected by some that another new arrival to the village may have something to do with the case. Nine-year-old Linus is a mute German-Jewish boy who stays at a local rooming house and is mostly known for the German-speaking parrot that's never far from his shoulder. The sleuth soon realizes that issues of national security could be involved here, with spies and code-breaking a la The 39 Steps, and he has to bring all his analytical skill to bear. That he's an impressive detective is a fact definitely agreed upon by the police, as it is by the author himself, who drops more than a few hints that the quiet old man, whose name seems to never come up, could be the great Sherlock Holmes himself, sans Watson. The result might be less than what Chabon fans would like to see, and also less than hard-core mystery readers would prefer. Nor does a slow start help matters any. Still, though what we have here is definitely Chabon in a minor key, he hasn't spared any effort in its execution. The English countryside is engagingly detailed, a trip to London under the Blitz especially effective in its somber tone of wartime malaise. A fun, short snip of a detective yarnthat, even so, leaves more questions than answers. Agent: Mary Evans/Mary Evans Inc.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
P.S. Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.36(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Final Solution
A Story of Detection

Chapter One

A boy with a parrot on his shoulder was walking along the railway tracks. His gait was dreamy and he swung a daisy as he went. With each step the boy dragged his toes in the rail bed, as if measuring out his journey with careful ruled marks of his shoetops in the gravel. It was midsummer, and there was something about the black hair and pale face of the boy against the green unfurling flag of the downs beyond, the rolling white eye of the daisy, the knobby knees in their short pants, the self-important air of the handsome gray parrot with its savage red tail feather, that charmed the old man as he watched them go by. Charmed him, or aroused his sense -- a faculty at one time renowned throughout Europe-- of promising anomaly.

The old man lowered the latest number of The British Bee Journal to the rug of Shetland wool that was spread across his own knobby but far from charming knees, and brought the long bones of his face closer to the windowpane. The tracks -- a spur of the Brighton-Eastbourne line, electrified in the late twenties with the consolidation of the Southern Railway routes -- ran along an embankment a hundred yards to the north of the cottage, between the concrete posts of a wire fence. It was ancient glass the old man peered through, rich with ripples and bubbles that twisted and toyed with the world outside. Yet even through this distorting pane it seemed to the old man that he had never before glimpsed two beings more intimate in their parsimonious sharing of a sunny summer afternoon than these.

He was struck, as well, by their apparent silence. It seemed probable to him that in any given grouping of an African gray parrot -- a notoriously prolix species -- and a boy of nine or ten, at any given moment, one or the other of them ought to be talking. Here was another anomaly. As for what it promised, this the old man -- though he had once made his fortune and his reputation through a long and brilliant series of extrapolations from unlikely groupings of facts -- could not, could never, have begun to foretell.

As he came nearly in line with the old man's window, some one hundred yards away, the boy stopped. He turned his narrow back to the old man as if he could feel the latter's gaze upon him. The parrot glanced first to the east, then to the west, with a strangely furtive air. The boy was up to something. A hunching of the shoulders, an anticipatory flexing of the knees. It was some mysterious business -- distant in time but deeply familiar -- yes --

-- the toothless clockwork engaged; the unstrung Steinway sounded: the conductor rail.

Even on a sultry afternoon like this one, when cold and damp did not trouble the hinges of his skeleton, it could be a lengthy undertaking, done properly, to rise from his chair, negotiate the shifting piles of ancient-bachelor clutter -- newspapers both cheap and of quality, trousers, bottles of salve and liver pills, learned annals and quarterlies, plates of crumbs -- that made treacherous the crossing of his parlor, and open his front door to the world. Indeed the daunting prospect of the journey from armchair to doorstep was among the reasons for his lack of commerce with the world, on the rare occasions when the world, gingerly taking hold of the brass door-knocker wrought in the hostile form of a giant Apis dorsata, came calling. Nine visitors out of ten he would sit, listening to the bemused mutterings and fumblings at the door, reminding himself that there were few now living for whom he would willingly risk catching the toe of his slipper in the hearth rug and spilling the scant remainder of his life across the cold stone floor. But as the boy with the parrot on his shoulder prepared to link his own modest puddle of electrons to the torrent of them being pumped along the conductor, or third, rail from the Southern Railway power plant on the Ouse outside of Lewes, the old man hoisted himself from his chair with such unaccustomed alacrity that the bones of his left hip produced a disturbing scrape. Lap rug and journal slid to the floor.

He wavered a moment, groping already for the door latch, though he still had to cross the entire room to reach it. His failing arterial system labored to supply his suddenly skybound brain with useful blood. His ears rang and his knees ached and his feet were plagued with stinging. He lurched, with a haste that struck him as positively giddy, toward the door, and jerked it open, somehow injuring, as he did so, the nail of his right forefinger.

"You, boy!" he called, and even to his own ears his voice sounded querulous, wheezy, even a touch demented. "Stop that at once!"

The boy turned. With one hand he clutched at the fly of his trousers. With the other he cast aside the daisy. The parrot sidestepped across the boy's shoulders to the back of his head, as if taking shelter there.

"Why, do you imagine, is there a fence?" the old man said, aware that the barrier fences had not been maintained since the war began and were in poor condition for ten miles in either direction. "For pity's sake, you'd be fried like a smelt!" As he hobbled across his dooryard toward the boy on the tracks, he took no note of the savage pounding of his heart. Or rather he noted it with anxiety and then covered the anxiety with a hard remark. "One can only imagine the stench."

Flower discarded, valuables restored with a zip to their lodging, the boy stood motionless. He held out to the old man a face as wan and empty as the bottom of a beggar's tin cup ...

The Final Solution
A Story of Detection
. Copyright © by Michael Chabon. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Moonglow and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, among many others. He lives in Berkeley, California with his wife, the novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their children.

Brief Biography

Berkeley, California
Date of Birth:
May 24, 1963
Place of Birth:
Washington, D.C.
B.A., University of Pittsburgh; M.F.A., University of California at Irvine

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Final Solution 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a joy it has been of late for us Sherlockians. Not only has there been a batch of new scholarly Holmes-related books to digest and debate--among them THE NEW ANNOTATED SHERLOCK HOLMES--but we¿ve also been blessed with three very interesting and top-notch pastiches. What makes this trio of recent novels so unique is that they come from unlikely writers, individuals who fall more into the literary category than the mystery genre. I am, of course, referring to the three-headed prong that is Caleb Carr (THE ITALIAN SECRETARY), Michael Chabon (THE FINAL SOLUTION), and Mitch Cullin (A SLIGHT TRICK OF THE MIND). *** As I decided to read all three books back to back, I shall comment on them in the order in which they were read. For better or worse, I started with the one that I believed would be the most satisfying of the trio: Caleb Carr¿s THE ITALIAN SECRETARY. However, while I found Carr¿s book engaging and fun for the most part, I was somewhat disappointed with it. In hindsight, my feelings might have more to do with my high regard for Carr¿s previous novels--such as THE ALIENIST--than it does with the actual quality of his Sherlock novel. In other words, had THE ITALIAN SECRETARY been written by someone else, I might not have found myself feeling it lacked the strength and depth of story that I¿ve come to expect from, yes, a Caleb Carr novel. So putting those thoughts aside, I will say that Carr¿s book is mostly well written and he has done a good job at capturing the spirit, intrigue, and style of Doyle. However, it fell a little flat toward the end, giving me the sense of a rushed job. Even so, both his Holmes and Watson are vivid and quite enjoyable, and I do hope he tries his hand at another Sherlock pastiche, taking his time to draw the story out rather than move it so swiftly to its conclusion. A somewhat slight but worthy read nevertheless. *** Next up was Michael Chabon¿s THE FINAL SOLUTION, the Pulitzer-Prize winning writer¿s look at an unnamed Sherlock in retirement, set with World War II as the backdrop. This novella--not novel--is actually quite wonderful and the writing is fluid, lyrical, and overall rather excellent. To be frank, I wasn¿t expecting much from such a slim volume that offered us Sherlock as an elderly gentleman. But I was mistaken. It is an intelligent diversion, and, like Mitch Cullin¿s novel, brings the character into a modern age that somewhat confounds him. If I have any complaints, though, it is that Chabon made a point of never mentioning Sherlock by name (he is simply The Old Man), and, by doing so, skirted the character¿s history and much of his background, making him a bit one dimensional. The shortness of the book, too, didn¿t leave much room for the plot (which is, by the way, very interesting) or other characters to be developed at any great length. Still, there was enough here to hold my interest, and, in its own way, THE FINAL SOLUTION not only compliments Mitch Cullin¿s longer work but its themes and story also function as a kind of extended prologue to the last book in the threesome. A wonderfully written, thoughtful addition to Holmes literature that manages to pack a decent punch in too few pages. *** Poor Mitch Cullin, I thought when I finally got around to his A SLIGHT TRICK OF THE MIND. Besides holding the distinction of being ¿the best American novelist you`ve probably never heard of,¿ his attempt to capture Sherlock followed in the shadows of both Carr and Chabon¿s efforts (although, by comparison, I¿m willing to bet Cullin toiled on his book much longer than either of his contemporaries). And yet, of the three, his vision of Holmes is the most interesting and the best realized. The writing is superb, if not downright poetic at times. Most important to me, however, was that the elderly Sherlock of this novel has been humanized in a very realistic manner but yet, without question, still reads and sounds like Doyle¿s creation. That is no easy achievement, and one that should b
blocher9 More than 1 year ago
This is a relatively short book. Fans of YIDDISH POLICEMAN and KAVALIER AND CLAY will also enjoy this one. Chabon is not prolific in his prose but that is because the man is the architect of some of the most intricate and precise metaphors in the English Language. If I say that James Lee Burke also falls into this category, then readers of this review can evaluate how much they think my opinion is worth. Again, a set of characters Chabon manages to not let fall into stereotypes and an intriguing story line --- but the prose, the PROSE!
SFlibres More than 1 year ago
I had to laugh when I read some of the reviews which gave this novella a low rating. They completely missed the whole point of the plot!! This is a superbly written book, "The Final Solution" a perfect title with multiple deep meanings, and the plot anything but boring!! I loved this book and gave it to my sister to read. She also LOVED it, as did my twelve year old son. Sorry to say, he must be a more insightful and sophisticated reader than some of the reviewers listed here!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a joy to read. The wonderfully imaginative unique world of Michael Chabon is refreshing in the face of countless formulaic novels. If you pick up this book you won't be disappointed.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Well written mystery. I mostly enjoyed the parrot. Larry
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The_Iceman More than 1 year ago
A retired old man in failing health, 89 years old to be more precise, tends his bees on Sussex Downs in the south of England in the summer of 1944. World War II is drawing to a close as the Allies have just invaded Normandy. While England is cautiously optimistic, its people still remain wary of Germany, its people and its ability to press the war with renewed vigor. Looking out of his cottage window, the old man spots a boy walking toward the nearby railway tracks with a large gray parrot on his shoulder. Concerned that the boy may harm himself on the tracks, the old man hauls himself wearily from the cottage and stops the boy with a shout. He quickly determines that the boy is a mute. The parrot, on the other hand, is anything but, filling the air with an endless stream of chatter, poetry and, oddest of all, an apparently random sequence of numbers, the entire lot of it spoken in German!

The boy is Linus Steinman, a Jewish refugee from Germany, who lives with Mrs Panicker and her husband, the local vicar, in their modest boarding house. When Mr Shane, one of the other boarders in the home, is murdered and it is also discovered that the German speaking parrot is missing, the readers learn that the old man used to be a well known detective - of no small skill in his working days - who on more than one occasion had assisted Scotland Yard and local constabularies in the solution of sticky mysteries. In this particular case, it is clear that Scotland Yard has considerable interest in both Mr Shane (whose origin is obviously not as he had claimed) and the parrot, feeling that the random number sequences may relate in some fashion to the codes used by the German military. The police and Scotland Yard, with considerable doubts in the old man¿s continued abilities, grudgingly request his assistance in solving the murder and finding the lost parrot.

While the ¿old man¿ is never actually named, the reader will, of course, realize that he is Sherlock Holmes with all his trademark characteristics. He continues to smoke his pipe stuffed with a vile Turkish shag; his long lean legs are certainly more feeble and arthritic than they were in his younger days but his hawkish nose and drooping eyelids remain alert for clues; his magnifying glass is still in his pocket; he continues to scoff at the ability of the police to destroy a crime scene and consider the irrelevant while ignoring the true pertinent facts of a case.

If a potential reader is looking for a clever mystery that requires the skills of a Sherlock Holmes for its solution and resembles the clever constructions that came from the pen of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, ¿The Final Solution¿ will fall well short of the mark and leave readers badly disappointed. The murder and the mystery of the parrot are resolved but, in my opinion, in a most humdrum fashion. Where ¿The Final Solution¿ did manage to shine quite strongly was in the simple but warmly compelling portrayal of an aging man, past the prime and sparkle of his youth, who retains much of his mental skill without the accompanying physical prowess to carry it off and who has no greater wish than to die without indignity.

At only 131 pages, ¿The Final Solution¿ is a short and easy read that does add something of value to the Sherlock Holmes legend even if that something is not a particularly interesting mystery. Recommended.

Paul Weiss
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the first Chabon book I'd read. It was chosen for my book club, and other people in my club had raved about what a great author he is. Unfortunately, that was not the experience I had with him. Each time I picked this book up, I had to force myself to read a few pages. I would read a little bit and then my eyes would cross with boredom and I'd put it down. Despite its short length, it took me over a week to read. If it weren't my book club pick, I never would have finished it. The writing was cloudy and dull and the story itself not particularly interesting. I didn't know who took the parrot, nor did I care. Unlike some books that make me feel like I am jumping into the action each time I dip into them, reading this book was as if I were watching the story through a thick piece of green, rippled glass, so murky that I could barely see the movements of the different characters. Combine that murkiness with a story that isn't that interesting and, well, you can understand why my eyes were crossing! I am reluctant to waste any more of my precious free time on anything else by this author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book beautiful and elegant. It contains not a single unnecessary syllable. A joy to read and reread.
Guest More than 1 year ago
For all its linguistic legerdomain, 'The Final Solution' is as hollow as the proverbial drum. Chabon's typical rich, involving, poetic characterization and highly stylized prose only emphasize the ho-hum-ness of this brief Sherlock Holmes novella. The actual mystery is never particularly involving, nor is the cheekily-veiled identity of the protagonist ever in doubt. Chabon seems more intent on experimenting with the genre conventions than telling a story, which is stunning from a writer this immortally gifted. A very disappointing novella, to be sure.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After Kavalier and Clay, I decided I'd buy all of Chabon's books in hardcover. His writing was AMAZING! Then came Summerland, which I couldnt finish, and now THIS, which is simply boring. In his first few books, characters developed subtly and deeply. The reader truly felt their drives and ambitions and related on a basic level. I cared about the characters and what happened to them. I didn't want the books to end. Summerland was the end of that. The Final Solution jumps right in and gives us what amounts to stereotyped Character #1. A brief, trite description is offered before moving to Character #2. Then, a brief awkward exchange occurs, and we skip WAY over to a new setting for rapid-fire Character descriptions. But you just never ever care. I put the book down ten times before getting past page 30 and forced myself to get to the end of the 130-ish page novella. It pained me, there was no satisfaction in suffering through to the anticlimactic conclusion. I do not know what is wrong with Michael Chabon lately, but it's almost like a junior high school student in his first attempts at length fell flat in this story. Very, very, VERY SAD!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Acclaimed actor Michael York hardly needs an introduction, as he's well remembered for his fine film performances in 'Romeo and Juliet,' 'Cabaret' and 'Wide Sargasso Sea.' With his distinctive slight British accent and resonant voice he brings us a superb reading of Michael Chabon's take on an adventure of Sherlock Holmes (the name is never mentioned, but it's a good guess when the hero is a pipe smoking, bee keeping former detective). Chabon supposes the famous sleuth is now 89 years of age and living in respected privacy in Sussex where he concentrates on his beloved hobby of beekeeping. It is world War II. The detective's peaceful existence is interrupted when a rather mysterious nine-year-old boy, Linus Steinman, appears. The boy is remarkable for several reasons, the most obvious ones are that he's quite bright and mute. Linus's companion is a chatty African gray parrot - a German speaking parrot at that. Crackers don't seem to be on this bird's mind as he is insistent upon repeating a string of numbers. One could surmise endlessly on the meaning of these numbers - codes, bank account, identifications? Nonetheless, when someone steals the parrot local police call upon Holmes for assistance. The master detective can't resist a crack at one more puzzling case. Listen - you'll thoroughly enjoy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The main mystery in the book was never solved! The author is also way too verbose. I thought I would never get to the end of the book, then when I finally did - I hated the ending. At least it wasn't longer.