Top positive review
It's all about the writing
Reviewed in the United States on February 5, 2017
I am reading the Nebula Award winning novels in chronological order. This is the winner for 2008.
I must say, this book was very...different. Different in an interesting but sometimes difficult to read way. The novel is liberally embellished with Yiddish, the native language of the characters. There is a glossary in the back which I didn't notice until it was too late. I don't like looking things up anyway, plus the context makes most things obvious.
The story is complex and the ridiculously long names for some of the characters don't make it any easier to keep track of things. There is a lot to follow. This is not a light read, you have to be paying attention. I would not recommend it for an audiobook.
The two main characters are detectives in a province of Alaska to which they have been granted a 50 year lease. The main character, Landsman, life has gone down the tubes, his marriage collapsed leaving him with nothing to live for. He rents a dumpy apartment in a slum where he spends his non-working time drowning himself in alcohol. But he is a driven detective and when a young man is murdered in his apartment building, he takes it seriously. The book follows the complicated path to find the man's killer.
What I really liked about the novel was the language, not the insertion of Yiddish, but the colorful and insightful aphorisms. So much can be conveyed in so few words. I'm going to put a number of them in this review so you can see what I mean. There are a lot, lot more throughout the novel.
The lady has been in and out of the hospital lately, dying in chapters, with a cliff-hanger at the end of every one.
The blood from the back of his head has scattered rhododendrons in the snow.
He can feel his rib cage ringing under the mallet of his heart.
Landsman feels a numbness enter his limbs, a sense of doom that is indistinguishable from peacefulness.
I'm like a cash gift, I'm always appropriate.
I could go on citing these things but you've probably got the idea by now.