Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 527
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...
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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 by her lover only because of his undying friendship with George. George’s success in the parrot case is even more surprising, but the other two detectives employed by the agency can only assume that their status is threatened by a genius, and they begin to plot George’s downfall, preferably before he can solve the inheritance case by finding the lost heirs.
Meanwhile, Ferguson Gibbs and his employee, the unscrupulous Fred Shapiro, are involved in two plots. By somehow impersonating the heirs to the fortune (the Ferros), they hope to inherit that fortune, and by convincing the members of the Rayonist cult that either Shapiro or Gibbs is their natural leader, they intend to seize the cult money. Thinking that George can be of help to them, Gibbs and Shapiro have him drugged and kidnapped. Meanwhile, the jealous detectives have put the French police on George’s trail. George escapes and hides for a time with Croconyan, then flees to the French Alps, where Croconyan, George’s mistress, and her lover join him. After the mistress is kidnapped, George finds himself at the Ferro estate, where a cult meeting is being held with Fred Shapiro and Ferguson Gibbs presiding and with the elusive Jenny Weltman acting as the cult goddess. Here more characters gather, including the remaining members of the detective agency, as well as police officers. In a gun battle which is a typical detective story finale, one member of the detective agency, who has throughout the story been injury-prone, is killed. The final scene is once again like a film script: a funeral procession, a burial, a mysterious car toward which Jenny Weltman beckons George, and finally, framed in the rearview mirror, Fred’s eyes.