Retired to the English countryside, an eighty-nine-year-old man, rumored to be a once-famous detective, is more concerned with his beekeeping than with his fellow man. Into his life wanders Linus Steinman, nine years old and mute, who has escaped from Nazi Germany with his sole companion: an African gray parrot. What is the meaning of the mysterious strings of German numbers the bird spews out -- a top-secret SS code? The keys to a series of Swiss bank accounts? Or do they hold a significance both more prosaic and far more sinister? Though the solution may be beyond even the reach of the once-famous sleuth, the true story of the boy and his parrot is subtly revealed in a wrenching resolution.