For Rodney Poole, a friendly and unassuming lover of clever wordplay and television sports of all stripes, Boyle's Irish Pub is a haven of good cheer, pleasantly pointless conversation, elaborate jokes, heated trivia contests, well-poured pints, and familiar faces. The pressures and demands of the outside world hold no sway there- the crowd at Boyle's is his family, and with family all sins are forgiven.
But reality cannot be kept at bay forever, and now Rodney's best friend and partner in inertia, Keith, is getting married and moving to Chicago. Since Rodney has for the most part enjoyed his bachelorhood vicariously through Keith, the prospect of being single, middle-aged, unemployed, and without his pal to while away the nights with is causing Rodney to rethink—or rather, create—his priorities.
When Keith introduces him to the lovely Mairead (rhymes with parade), a cheerful career woman who seems to enjoy his bad puns, ambitionless nature, and love of literature, Rodney can spy an honorable path to grown-up-hood at last. But a series of comic mishaps jeopardize his budding relationship with Mairead, his friendship with Keith, and most serious of all, his place on a barstool in the idyllic world of Boyle's.
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.