Monday, July 28, 2008

The Yiddish Policeman's Union -- Michael Chabon

Let's see if I have this right. In Michael Chabon's novel, the U. S. dropped a bomb on Berlin in '46, and there is no state of Israel. Instead, the U. S. established a temporary resettlement zone for Jews in and around Sitka, Alaska.

Now it's Now, and it's time for the Jews to be moved out. There'll be no permanent home for them in Alaska. This will mean big shake-ups in everything, including the police force. Meanwhile, there's been an execution-style murder in a seedy Sitka hotel. It just happens to be the hotel were Meyer Landsman lives, and it just happens that his ex-wife is has just been named police chief. She kills the case.

Well, even in alternate universes, you can't kill a case when a bulldog cop is on it. Landsman carries on and winds up in a morass of plot that gets so complex that even Chandler might admire it. Everything's connected (string is a metaphor).

While I have some quibbles with the plot and with the novel's pacing, I enjoyed it. Chabon's having a fine time for himself here in his imagined world, and there are plenty of laughs. Also plenty of hat tips toward other mystery novels. Worth a look if you want something different from the same old thing. I kept thinking, for some reason, of The Adventures of Augie March. Chabon's playing in Bellow's league, I believe. See what you think.

5 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Happy Birthday, Bill.

Stu Shiffman said...

Happy birthday, Bill! Andi sends her love too! You should only live and be well.

This Chabon is my meat -- i just love when a writer does a book just for me -- chockful of meaty alternate history detail (I'm still on the judging committee of the Sidewise Award) and alternate Yiddishkeit. This all grew from an essay Chabon wrote on the old Let's Go phrasebook for Yiddish -- when there is no Yiddishland to visit, what do you use it for was his question.

Darn good mystery too, noir as heck.

Todd Mason said...

Inasmuch as Bellow has always reminded me of Avram Davidson, a rather obvious comparison that never seems to get too much agreement from anyone, I take this as high praise, even as would anyway...it's on my TBR pile, and I'm hoping that it might engage my Alaska-loving hard-sf-loving father.

Howard said...

This was my favorite book of last year, and I'm hoping it pulls off the Nebula/Hugo double play (it won the Nebula already).

Bill Crider said...

A strong Edgar contender, too, though it didn't win.