Close on the heels of Gentleman of the Road, J has supplied me with another of Michael Chabon’s books, in a not-so-discreet but much appreciated effort to nudge me through the rest of his oeuvre. At little more than 120 pages, this is more novella than full-length and, despite a haunting underlying subject, it has the feel of an amuse-bouche: a casual skirmish with one of the great characters of English literature. It’s the tale of an elderly man who was once famous for his extraordinary deductive powers across the length and breadth of the British Empire. But times have changed: the pea-soupers of London have given way to a peaceful retirement in the Sussex countryside, and the chaos of the human city to the quietly organised hives of honeybees. Little can tempt the old man from his self-imposed isolation; until, in the summer of 1944, he encounters a curious duo: a young boy with a splendid African grey parrot on his shoulder.