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Because it plays out among three million Jews living in Sitka, Alaska after the 1948 war to establish Israel ended badly, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union qualifies as alternative history. And because the author is Michael Chabon, creator of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, every sentence swings, and every page delights. But this is not only a detective story, it’s one folded over on itself. Homicide investigator Meyer Landsman’s inquiry into the murder of a fellow resident of his own fleabag hotel unfolds with the clockwork intricacy and hardboiled style of Raymond Chandler. (The fog and sodium-vapor light of a Sitka night, Chabon writes, “has the translucence of onions cooked in chicken fat.”) Along the way, the novel, published in 2007, also slyly explores the confining power of story. Winner of the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel of 2008, the genre-melding mystery was also shortlisted for an Edgar Award. —Karl Vick

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