The Yiddish Policemen’s Union

Michael Chabon

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is a neo-noir that shows reverence for both the genre and the novel’s loaded subject matter. Amazingly, it does this while hashing out a mostly implausible plot involving a series of unrequited chess matches and a smack-addicted messiah who meets a bad end. The story’s anti-hero, Meyer Landsman, a Jewish homicide detective investigating a death down the hall from his room in a seedy hotel, is a poster child for wise-cracking, alcoholic, guilt-laden gumshoes. The story takes place in Sitka, Alaska—a site that the novel imagines as holding a healthy contingent of Jewish emigrants after World War Two. With this latest book, Chabon has reached new heights of success at making humor and gravity play nice together on the page. Such heights, that you’d have to be a little mashugga not to enjoy it.