(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Cherokee is a detective story patterned after New Wave films. Unlike most detective stories, it presents characters and events to the reader without explanation and often without connection. Confusedly, George Chave wanders through these events, pursuing his ideal girl and haphazardly accomplishing his assignments while other characters pursue wealth, one another, and George. Only in the superb climactic scene of the novel, when one group of characters after another appears, do their relationships and the plot itself become clear. The ultimate detective, then, is the reader, who must watch the characters and the plot elements as Jean Echenoz masterfully juggles them, working toward a conclusion which the writer alone has in mind.

The novel begins with a chance encounter in a bar between aimless, unemployed George Chave and a large, mysterious man known only as Croconyan, whom George saves from a knife-flashing assailant. Thinking no more of the incident, George goes on his way, finally obtaining a job with a detective agency in order to be able to buy gifts for his new mistress. Unfortunately, the other two employees of the agency have been making no headway on the agency’s three major assignments: to find a missing parrot, to locate a missing wife, and to ascertain who and where are the heirs to a fortune. Recognizing the husband’s description of the wife’s lover as Croconyan, George manages to locate and return the wife, who is released...

(The entire section is 527 words.)