Book #7 – The Final Solution by Michael Chabon
More like a novelette (or a novella, or…whatever) than a novel, it’s a book and it has been read.
There are many similarities between The Final Solution and Mitch Cullin’s A Slight Trick of the Mind. Both deal with Holmes in his twilight years; a Holmes with physical maladies that frustrate his ability to function. Chabon’s Holmes has less mental problems. Both have retired from public life and intend to spend the remainder of life quietly keeping bees. Both novels have small boys that become important to Holmes. Both novels deal with the experience of the World Wars; Chabon’s novelette set before WWII and Cullin’s after. Neither include Watson or the notorious drug abuse. The primary difference is that Chabon’s novel is more direct detective story. A crime occurs; Holmes solves it. Nevertheless, The Final Solution is still a "literary" novel (though Chabon takes some exception to the label). The story does have a serious and poignant historical overlay which is presented more subtly than in Cullin’s book. It’s a lovely, quick read.
Speaking of similarities…
I decided to go back and read a couple classic Doyle stories: "The Final Problem" and "The Adventure of the Empty House". These aren’t exactly iconic stories in terms of structure, but they are ones that are important in the realm of third-party works. These are where Doyle kills off Holmes and bring him back. It’s often referred to a the Great Hiatus.
It’s been years (a decade?) since I read these two stories. I hadn’t realized the the beginning of The Seven-per-Cent Solution was a direct, in some cases word-for-word, retelling of the beginning of "The Final Problem."* What puzzles me is this: why, if these two pieces of fiction are nearly the same, is Doyle’s compelling and Meyer’s is not? What are the differences? Is it a matter of story immediacy? Is it that I know Meyer has an ulterior motive in setting up that story that way (although I had kind of forgotten about the deranged Holmes being sent to Freud plot)? Doyle’s writing still captured me even though I knew what was going on and had recently read Meyer’s version. Maybe I should investigate that a little more before moving on to the next book.
* I had also forgotten that Moriarty doesn’t appear in the Holmes cannon until "The Final Problem." He also doesn’t have much more of a direct role in the Holmes stories. It’s interesting how much attention has been given to a character that Doyle only used two or three times. But that’s the nature of these stories. The fans have grasped on to the smallest things…