The Final Solution: Michael Chabon

★★★½

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.

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Gentlemen of the Road: Michael Chabon

★★★★★

First of all, a very Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful holiday and that the new year brings you all sorts of splendid things. For my own part, 2018 has arrived hand-in-hand with well-meaning resolutions, such as easing off on book-buying. I have such a treasure-trove of things to read that I could quite happily spend the entire year reading books I already own, and that’s doubly true because I received some fabulous things for Christmas. The best presents, as always, are those you don’t expect and this lovely little book, a gift from J, displayed a startling understanding of my psyche: here is adventure, derring-do, disguise, intrigue, sardonic wit and rich, luscious prose, all bundled together in 200 pages of 10th-century adventure on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

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