Saturday, 10 January 2009

The Yiddish Policemen's Union

An alternative history of the world where the jews have temporarily settled in Sitka, Alaska as the state of Israel was destroyed in 1948 but the settlement is about to revert back to the USA and only a few will be allowed to stay. This is what turns the intriguing plot.

Meyer Landsman our anti-hero and hard boiled detective's life is falling apart and he is living in a dive called the Zamenhof Hotel when a man is discovered murdered with a half finished chess game on the table in his room. Landsman takes this as a personal insult that it could have happened in the place he is staying and starts to investigate with the help of his half Tingit and half Jewish partner Berko Shemets. They discover a whole lot more than they bargain for and the identity of the murdered man has more than local implications.

Michael Chabon writes in a vivid 'noir' syle and riffs with the similes, drawing a picture of the settlement with its fisures and crime masters. Landsman the detective tries to bring justice to the world in common with those other detectives of the genre brought to life by Dasheill Hammett and Raymond Chandler.

I would recommend 'The Yiddish Policemen's Union' by Michael Chabon and think it would be enjoyed by both Crime and SF fans although I think it is a book that transcends genre while also celebrating it. You'll also learn a smattering of Yiddish on the way.

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