reading trivializes death by protesting that he, like Naboltov, took care to reveal the
solution only after the reader has engaged deeply with the characters and the world
they occupy (257-58). In Nabokov, this means repeated re-readings; in Boyd,
simulating the experience of re-reading by dividing his book into the three sections of
the Hegelian spiral, each revealing deeper understandings of the text.
Boyd certainly does not act inappropriately in applying the language and
assumptions of the mystery novel to Pale Fire, as we have seen. But detective work
is more problematic in the novel than Boyd makes it out to be. "Whose spurred feet
From left to right the blank page of the road?"
asks the morning after a snowfall, "Reading from left to right in winter's code: A
dot, an arrow pointing back; repeat: /Dot, arrow pointing back . . . A pheasant's
feet!" (11. 22-24). The "code" is partly whimsical, suggesting an urgent, clandestine
radio transmission ("repeat:") mulled over anxiously by the recipient ("Dot, arrow
pointing back . . .
and decoded ("A pheasant's feet!"). In another sense, though,
the code is indecipherable: "Reading from left to right" to track the pheasant is
impossible, for the would-be naturalist is incessantly directed to the "dot" upon
reaching the "arrow pointing back." "Repeat" can thus be seen as the real content of
the code, with the ellipses suggesting an infinite reiteration of the
Even when a small "mystery"is solved concretely, the solution is
disappointing. Spying on Shade late in the evening, Kinbote observes that
Shade then wonders,
he in Sherlock
the fellow whose Tracks pointed back when he
reversed his shoes?" (34, 11. 27-28). Kinbote strengthens the tenuous connection between the detective and bird motifs in glossing Holmes as "a hawk-nosed, lanky, rather likable private detective" (78).