As the title indicates, Michael Chabon’s The Final Solution is a detective novel. The mystery at its heart involves a dead body and a missing African grey parrot belonging to a mute German refugee boy. The main detective is an old man brought out of retirement to help with this puzzling case.
The mystery has its twists and turns as you might expect, but it’s not terribly complicated. The audio version is only three discs long, and the story feels complete, even at that short length. The clues are clever and the characters interesting, although most of them are not terribly complex. And the scene where the criminal is caught is breath-takingly suspenseful.
Chabon does have one trick up his sleeve with this book that I hesitate to say much about, although I suspect many of you know about it already because it appears that many reviewers think it is perfectly fair to reveal a significant fact that Chabon chose never to reveal overtly. Even though this fact is actually completely obvious to the attentive reader who knows anything about detective fiction, I was glad that for once my literary head was in the sand. I enjoyed the process of getting a tickle in the back of my head and watching the clues build until it was 100% clear what Chabon was doing. I kept expecting some annoying cliched revelation, but it never came. And I give Chabon props for that. Some late-stage revelation would have made the whole thing feel like a parlor trick designed to make readers feel dumb.
Would the book have worked so well if the significant fact had been overtly revealed from the beginning? Maybe. I think that would depend a lot on the reader.