Book Review: The Final Solution by Michael Chabon

This short novel is a sort of throwback to Golden Age mysteries. Set in the late stages of the Second World War, in a small English community outside of London, we have the usual odd assortment of characters. A foreign vicar who probably drinks too much. His ne’er-do-well son, the young mute Jewish refugee who is staying with them, the boy’s pet parrot who repeats streams of numbers in German and snatches of song, a travelling salesman who is more than what he might seem. And the aging detective, in his final years. Once famous but now devoted mostly to his bees, yet drawn in to solve a murder and find a missing parrot.

The characters are all a bit cliched but the mystery is satisfyingly complex and I figured it out just before it was revealed which, to my mind, is exactly how a mystery story should unfold. I’ve read several of Chabon’s novels previously and this is very much of a piece with his work. I think of him as very American so I rather questioned his choice to locate this mystery in such a very English setting but overall it wasn’t too jarring.

The length of the story made it a good one for audio but the audio version also drew my attention to Chabon’s overwriting. I’ve noticed this a bit from him when reading but somehow having to listen to it had me more frequently thinking about sections that could have been pared down. In an already short novella, that’s not a great feature. But for a chilly January day, this makes a decent and diverting read.

7 thoughts on “Book Review: The Final Solution by Michael Chabon”

  1. I’ve never actually finished a novel by Chabon – I tried The Yiddish Policeman’s Union a few years ago and abandoned it a few chapters in, though I now can’t remember why. It’s possible that it was the overwriting issue you mention. But since this is a novella and I do love a Golden Age mystery, I’m tempted to give him another go!

    1. I think i liked The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay best by him. I went through a bit of a phase of reading a lot by Chabon in my mid-20s. But the stuff I’ve read now in my 30s doesn’t grab me in the same way. This one has its length in its favour and the fact that it’s a mystery so there’s a central focus that draws you through.

  2. I totally think of Chabon as American because I used to teach an essay he wrote about how comic books changed from a children’s audience to an adult audience, but that they aren’t garbage in the way lit snobs say they are. Whenever I look up his other work, it seems that he’s written in every genre out there.

    1. He’s definitely American! And his books tend to be really American too. So this felt like a strange setting for him but I think he was trying to capture that Golden Age mystery feel. His non-fiction book about writing was quite good too!

  3. I don’t think I’ve read much Chabon, so I’m not familiar with his overwriting, but I see how that could be obvious in an audio book! That’s hidden easier in a paperback for sure.

    I think I’d enjoy this one, as I love a golden age mystery, even a throwback to it 🙂

    1. I have really liked his work in the past but the most recent ones I’ve read from Chabon have not grabbed me in the same way. But I would still say this is worth checking out if it interests you.

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