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The Yiddish Policemen's Union
by Michael Chabon
What if, as President Roosevelt proposed in 1939, a temporary settlement had been established in Alaska for Jews after World War II? Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Chabon explores this premise as the context for a noir murder mystery focusing on washed up Detective Meyer Landsman and his attempt to unravel the killing of a local heroin-addicted chess fanatic.
HarperCollins, 432 pages
Mystery & Thrillers
All reviews are classified as one of five grades: Outstanding (4 points), Favorable (3), Mixed (2), Unfavorable (1) and Terrible (0). To calculate the Metascore, we divide total points achieved by the total points possible (i.e., 4 x the number of reviews), with the resulting percentage (multiplied by 100) being the Metascore. Learn more...
Booklist Bill Ott
Even without grasping all the Yiddish wordplay that seasons the delectable prose, readers will fall headlong into the alternate universe of Chabon's Sitka, where black humor is a kind of antifreeze necessary to support life. [1 March 2007, p.38]
A page-turning noir, with a twist of Yiddish, that satisfies on many levels. [1 March 2007, p.185]
Library Journal Barbara Hoffert
Raucous, acidulous, decidedly impolite, yet stylistically arresting, this book is bloody brilliant--and if it's way over the top, that's what makes Chabon such a great writer. [1 Mar 2007, p.68]
New York Observer Emily Barton
All this Yiddishkeit is immensely interesting, and its complexity deepens as the book progresses. By the novel’s end, Mr. Chabon is questioning both Zionism and what it means for an individual Jew to stand under a chuppah, with such a wealth of plot and character behind him that these questions may make even the most jaded reader of detective fiction kvell.
Slate Ruth Franklin
Chabon has lavished an unfathomable amount of love on his creation, leaving no quirk of Jewish life unexploited for its comedic or absurdist potential.
PopMatters Connie Ogle
Like [Philip] Roth, Chabon has enough chutzpah and skill to transcend formula or cocky literary conceits. His talent grounds him enough to maintain balance, even when he teeters.
Entertainment Weekly Lisa Schwarzbaum
By the end, the plot bulges like a fatty pastrami sandwich. But in such an unholy land, what's not to love?
The Globe And Mail [Toronto] Cynthia Macdonald
This book may sometimes exceed its baggage allowance, but it is a superbly brash tribute to its myriad influences, and so inventive, funny and melancholic that you can't help but fly with it.
Bookslut Melissa Albert
The novel dips into the slick idiom of hardboiled noir, but Chabon’s lines burst with life, with warmth and sly humor. He revels in the form but pokes holes in it too, peeking through the places where clean, taut detective fiction and messy, voluminous life part ways.
Houston Chronicle Lisa Jennifer Selzman
A raucous, energetic novel that proves again Chabon's brilliance at inventing entire alternate worlds that are grounded in the truest of details and yet have a soaring, near fantastical quality...[But t]he sheer awfulness of one miserable Jew after the next sticks in the throat after awhile, despite the reeling plot and expert suspense.
Los Angeles Times David L. Ulin
It is very good - let's just say that at the outset - a larger-than-life folk tale set in an alternate universe version of the present where issues of exile and belonging, of identity, nationality, freedom and destiny are examined through a funhouse mirror that renders them opaque and recognizable all at once.
The New York Times Michiko Kakutani
Though the ultimate secret behind the murder that kick-starts the story involves a religious-political scheme that tips over clumsily into surreal satire, the remainder of the book is so authoritatively and minutely imagined that the reader, absorbed in the plight of Mr. Chabon’s shambling hero, really doesn’t mind.
Christian Science Monitor Erik Spanberg
Even those who care little for religious introspection will find plenty here to keep turning the pages. Chabon's dexterity remains impressive; he juggles the Big Ideas with brisk narrative and amusing set pieces without breaking a sweat.
Chicago Sun-Times Neil Steinberg
You could set a rollicking murder mystery in Auschwitz, too, and maybe somebody has. But at some point the awfulness of the setting would overwhelm and poison whatever particular crime the hero was tracking down. That is what happens here.
Eventually, however, Chabon's homage to noir feels heavy-handed, with too many scenes of snappy tough-guy banter and too much of the kind of elaborate thriller plotting that requires long explanations and offscreen conspiracies. [5 March 2007, p.34]
Boston Globe Gail Caldwell
It's a strange, passionate misfire -- obsessively constructed, meticulously researched, Byzantine in its plot line, but a thing of wonder only to itself. It's half-brilliant but half-boring, maybe because Chabon has so fallen under the sway of his creation that he lost control of its tenets.
USA Today Deirdre Donahue
This novel makes you think, but it is an ordeal to read. The problem: Chabon has mixed two very dark story lines that jar the reader. There is the real tragedy of Sitka's wandering Jews, and then there is the faux bleakness of the noir genre with its posturing attitude. The central character comes across as a Jewish Humphrey Bogart wannabe, not a three-dimensional character who can shoulder a 400-plus-page novel about exile, fanatics and longing.
The average user rating for this book is 8.7 (out of 10) based on 14 User Votes
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