A Story of Detection, by Michael Chabon
Another Sherlock Holmes pastiche, but a lot more interesting. Holmes is almost ninety, and England is a war with Nazi Germany. (He’s never named; he’s just “the old man.”) Watson is nowhere on scene, never mentioned; Holmes lives alone and raises bees.*
Okay, that’s pretty much as much as I’m going to tell you. Plot gripping, themes of age compelling, a chapter convincingly written from the POV of a parrot, the plots and subplots come directly from the nature of the characters themselves, etc.
“The old man settled himself onto one knee. The left one; the right knee was no good for anything anymore. It took him a damnably long time, and on the way down there was a horrible snapping sound. But he managed it and went about his work with dispatch. He pulled off his right glove and poike his naked finger into the bloody mud where Richard Woolsey Shane’s life had seeped away. Then he reached into the old conjuror’s pocket sewn into the lining of his cloak and took out his glass. It was brass and tortoise shell, and bore around its bezel and affectionate inscription from the sole great friend of his life.”
The rest of this is about Michael Chabon in general.
I like reading Michael Chabon, but I don’t ever intend to read anything he’s written more than once; I usually come away with the hair on the back of my neck standing straight out. There’s usually a story within the story, one that you don’t find out until the last few paragraphs. A story about divorce conceals the psychology of a serial killer. Little old half-blind grandmothers of your ex know more than they should, and lie about it. Houses and souls are sold…
Anyway. I really like the guy’s books, and I intend to work my way through them, but I can’t do it very often. A literary-horror crossover…I don’t know. Maybe he’s written something that doesn’t make me want to run screaming from the darkness underlying everytyhing (a writer who can see Cthulu lurking just under the surface of a suburban housewife’s blank gaze), but I haven’t come across it yet.
*There’s a point to the bees, but I won’t tell you what it is; it’s important.