In true hard-boiled style, the murder unpicks the seams of the whole rotten, corrupt mess, unearthing a political scandal that spans several continents, three major religions, a dead junkie messiah resurgent, and the resolution of Landsman's failed marriage to the woman who is now his boss in the Sitka police force.
I'm a great Chabon fan, and I think that this is his best book to date, better even than The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, as it so perfectly marries the deadpan ironies of hardboiled fiction and Yiddish storytelling, in a word-drunk reel that spanned ten CDs of bitter humor and insight. In this regard, the book is nicely complemented by a virtuoso reading from Peter Riegert, who hasn't been this fantastically understated and sly since his asides in Animal House.
I was raised by Yiddish speakers of some fluency -- and still have whole swaths of my family with whom I can only converse in my execrable Yiddish, learned through seven years of Sunday school at the Arbeiter Ring center in Toronto -- and I've always loved the language for its slope-shouldered, wry, witty flavor. It's hard to capture that in English, but Chabon really nails it here, and it merges so perfectly into the hard-boiled storyline that you'd think that Chandler had been written by Sholem Aleichem.
Link to audiobook CDs,
Link to hardcover