The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (3 stars)

MICHAEL CHABON

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (Fourth Estate)

SOCIAL SATIRE

Michael Chabon’s long-awaited seventh novel splices together a comic noir detective story and an alternative history of America. After the collapse of Israel in 1948, European Jews settled in the Sitka District of Alaska, but that was 60 years ago and the USA wants it back. ‘Reversion’ is nigh, and the possible Messiah is both a miracle worker and gay drug addict. Suffice to say that certain ultra-orthodox gangster elements decide that the situation needs improvement, by way of conspiracy and murder.

It takes a rooted swagger to write this kind of stuff, but Chabon reaches beyond notions of race to involve American bigwigs in the climactic act of terrorism. This is certainly his most controversial book to date and won’t be for everyone. However, Chabon turns in some finely-tuned portraits of people on the edge, which enriches the Chandler-style mystery story and humanises the political theme of exile.

(Hannah Adcock)

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