Synopsis from Goodreads:
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 the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel. The Jews of the Sitka District have created their own little world in the Alaskan panhandle, a vibrant and complex frontier city that moves to the music of Yiddish. But now the District is set to revert to Alaskan control, and their dream is coming to an end.
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. And in the cheap hotel where Landsman has washed up, someone has just committed a murder—right under his nose. When he begins to investigate the killing of his neighbor, a former chess prodigy, word comes down from on high that the case is to be dropped immediately, and Landsman finds himself contending with all the powerful forces of faith, obsession, evil, and salvation that are his heritage.
At once a gripping whodunit, a love story, and an exploration of the mysteries of exile and redemption, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is a novel only Michael Chabon could have written.
This book is one of the reasons I love Michael Chabon. He writes so well and with all the right details to bring a universe to life. This time it takes a little for the alternate universe to truly make itself known. The first time I read it, I had to look up Sitka and find out what was going on.
The beauty of this book is the detail he puts into it. Using the Yiddish words and including a glossary. Taking actual events in history and going the other direction: Sitka, the Bomb, Israel, JFK, Russia. Then throwing a murder mystery in among all of it. Just amazing.
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon