Michael Chabon – The Final Solution

In most cases I dislike reading novels that have stories based on the characters of another writer as they can rarely create the same atmosphere and feeling and the characters presented as they should not be. On this occasion I have made an exemption to try one, although this review will of course give a verdict that is partially based on an existing view that I have. The novel, or rather short novel or novella, I am talking about is The Final Solution (2005) by Michael Chabon. Chabon is one of the few contemporary writers whose work I have always enjoyed so I give him some credit here as he might make something more out of it.

The Final Solution is a Sherlock Holmes story set in his old age. His name is not mentioned so for the reader unfamiliar with Arthur Conan Doyle’s work the recognition will not be automatic, even as Chabon adds in plenty of hints without them being to obtrusive. Writing the story this way is actually not unusual. Even Doyle himself wrote a few Sherlock Holmes stories without mentioning his name.

Chabon does not attempt to mimic anything of the style of Doyle. This is of course an essential approach as it is very hard to do so. The story is told from different points of view. There are not many characters in the story so this way we get a greater picture. Chabon keeps a relatively slow pace, at least compared to how he usually writes. It adds to the atmosphere and the setting. There is a crime and a mystery and they should be approached with care. Chabon takes his time to present several characters and his depiction is as vivid and accurate as ever. He writes with great quality prose although he keeps his words a bit more simple than usual, which is good as it would disrupt the narrative.

Nevertheless the story progresses quickly. Like many of the Sherlock Holmes stories Chabon finds the right pace and every mystery is often not as complex as it seems. Chabon keeps it up for about three-quarter of the novel. What then happens is hard to describe. He goes off track and makes a shambles of the conclusion. Despite the title the reader is not really provided with a solution. We are missing some key elements that are never explained and I remained somewhat dissatisfied. If Chabon really had wanted to do a genuine homage he should have ended story in the right style. Instead he changes the focus and the direction of the story. I didn’t get the point.

So there is much to enjoy about this novel. It is a nice homage, but of course far from the real deal. One should not read it for the Sherlock Holmes references and homage but for the story itself and the typical Chabon style and elements which makes his novels a great read because there is much here as well.


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