The Yiddish Policemen's Union

A Novel

Chabon, Michael

Book - 2007
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Yiddish Policemen's Union
For sixty years, Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the Federal District of Sitka, a "temporary" safe haven created in the wake of revelations of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel. Proud, grateful, and longing to be American, the Jews of the Sitka District have created their own little world in the Alaskan panhandle, a vibrant, gritty, soulful, and complex frontier city that moves to the music of Yiddish. For sixty years they have been left alone, neglected and half-forgotten in a backwater of history. Now the District is set to revert to Alaskan control, and their dream is coming to an end: once again the tides of history threaten to sweep them up and carry them off into the unknown. But homicide detective Meyer Landsman of the District Police has enough problems without worrying about the upcoming Reversion. His life is a shambles, his marriage a wreck, his career a disaster. He and his half-Tlingit partner, Berko Shemets, can't catch a break in any of their outstanding cases. Landsman's new supervisor is the love of his life--and also his worst nightmare. And in the cheap hotel where he has washed up, someone has just committed a murder--right under Landsman's nose. Out of habit, obligation, and a mysterious sense that it somehow offers him a shot at redeeming himself, Landsman begins to investigate the killing of his neighbor, a former chess prodigy. But when word comes down from on high that the case is to be dropped immediately, Landsman soon finds himself contending with all the powerful forces of faith, obsession, hopefulness, evil, and salvation that are his heritage--and with the unfinished business of his marriage to Bina Gelbfish, the one person who understands his darkest fears. At once a gripping whodunit, a love story, an homage to 1940s noir, and an exploration of the mysteries of exile and redemption, The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a novel only Michael Chabon could have written.

Publisher: New York : HarperCollins Publishers, c2007
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 0007149824
Branch Call Number: FICTION CHABON
Characteristics: 414 p. ;,24 cm
Alternate Title: Yiddish policemen's union


From Library Staff

Coffee, donuts, and the Jewish mafia. In Alaska.

In a world in which Alaska, rather than Israel, has become the homeland for the Jews following World War II, Detective Meyer Landsman and his half-Tlingit partner Berko investigate the death of a heroin-addicted chess prodigy.

Set in an alternate Jewish state created in Alaska rather than the Middle East, this book is both a hard-boiled detective novel and also a beautiful description of life and love both gone awry. And it’s often really funny.

Set in an alternate Jewish state created in Alaska rather than the Middle East, this book is both a hard-boiled detective novel and also a beautiful description of life and love both gone awry. And it’s often really funny.

Homicide detective Meyer Landsman works in the soon-to-be-discontinued Jewish safe haven of the Federal District of Sitka. A wonderfully well-written book that is both alternate history and crime fiction.

From the critics

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Oct 21, 2013

"Imagine if tiny Sitka, Alaska, had been annexed as a temporary territory for homeless Jews after World War II. This odd proposition makes for a wonderfully surreal setting populated by rabbis, chess masters, and ultra-orthodox gangsters. In the midst of all this is Meyer Landsman, a depressed, alcoholic, and irreligious Jewish homicide cop who's only got a couple months to figure out who murdered a heroin-addicted former chess prodigy and gangster before Sitka reverts to Alaska and Sitka's Jews find themselves homeless once more. "Impressively wacky," says The New York Times." Fiction A to Z October 2013 newsletter

Jun 08, 2012
  • mpfickes rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Relentlessly inventive novelist Michael Chabon invents a new genre, the dystopian hardboiled alternative history mystery. His hero, Meyer Landsman, is an alcoholic cop in Sitka, the makeshift resettlement territory established for the Jews in the desolate, dark reaches of Alaska after the promised Jewish homeland turned to ashes in 1949. When a middle-aged junkie is found dead in the fleabag hotel Landsmann calls home, he persuades his reluctant partner and cousin, the half Jewish/half Tlingit Berko Shemets, to join him in the investigation. Chabon serves up a rich stew of dark and demonized characters in a book that is as improbably believable as an episode of The Sopranos crossed with Philip Roth's The Contract Against America. Note: keep a copy of Leo Rosten's The Joy of Yiddish handy. Unless you grew up in one of the 5 boroughs, you'll need it.

Jun 22, 2011
  • Adzebill rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Mainstream author who is not a genre snob. An feat of alternate history, very evocative about Jewish identity, and a damn good noir mystery too.

Jan 24, 2011
  • kmoyer rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

V interesting detective/mystery, fast paced. Funny. Lots of Jewish words thrown into the dialogue - takes awhile to figure out what some of them are but good fun.

Mar 28, 2010
  • sprocket rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

I found the first 100 pages to be a bit slow, but got right into the rest of the book. It's a neat whodunnit that might be especially enjoyable for chess fans.

Jan 10, 2010
  • jpalter rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Chabon admittedly likes difficult novels. He likes to read them. So it's no surprise that he writes them that way too. If you like his writing style, try his non-fiction Manhood for Amateurs. Brilliant!

Jan 02, 2010
  • aime_lire rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I wouldn't call it at all SF. If you start reading it and expect a SF or a mystery, you will be disappointed. Just expect a well-written novel and you will also find a very funny book.

Jul 01, 2008
  • samdog123 rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

Just couldn't get into this book-I like a lighter kind of mystery.

Feb 08, 2008 top 25 books of 2007.


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