Having retired to the English countryside, an eighty-nine-year-old man, rumored to have once been a great detective, spends more time tending to his bees than interacting with the people in his small town. It isn’t until the day that nine-year old Linus Steinman, escaped from Nazi Germany, wanders into his life that the old man is finally pulled out of his shell. Linus is a mute with a sole companion of an African gray parrot who constantly recites a series of numbers in German. Soon after the arrival of Linus and Bruno, the bird, a viscous murder takes places in the small town, and the old man is pulled into the foray of the investigation, lending a hand towards finding the killer.
Although I’ve never read any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works, it didn’t take long for me to figure out that the eighty-nine-year-old man, who remains nameless throughout the entire book, is most likely Sherlock Holmes. The setting, the time frame and the mannerisms, of which I’ve only heard about, all seem about right.
Although only a meager 131 pages, some of which are illustrations of certain scenes and characters, this mini-novel has the typically expected twists in a whodunnit book. Although I was fully engrossed by Chabon’s effortlessly descriptive prose, I felt that many elements were lacking in this book in regards to the plot. At times the story felt jumpy, there would be a series of progressions without any explanation. There wasn’t much character development with any of the characters other than the old man. I didn’t attach or care about any of the characters, except the old man. Even the young boy, with his tragic history, was left dull and dim in the shade of the old man’s glow. Granted, the old man was given the most attention, so maybe this was Chabon’s intention? There is a chapter at the end, told through the perspective of the parrot that I really enjoyed and felt was the best written segment of this book.
I’d say that for anyone curious about Chabon, this would be a good introduction book. Its short enough to not be a big commitment, and its a good way to get a feel for his writing style. Although I felt that this book could and should have been expanded in many ways, I still enjoyed it, particularly the sense humor and wit infused in the dialogue.