I had a really hard time getting into this book. Landsman is not a very likeable person, a disaster waiting to happen. He is surrounded by all kinds of depressing sorts. Even the landscape and weather seem depressing. Plus the book is written in the present tense which is always hard for me. There were all kinds of Yiddish terms and cultures that I didn't understand. And I don't really care for chess. But this was my Alaska book, so I stuck with it. Eventually I found myself interested in the story of the victim as well as Landsman's story. Even the chess elements were interesting. I got used to the tense which probably helped differentiate between the histories of the characters and the ongoing story itself. And Landsman, though a depressed, self-destructive, crazy man, has a certain amount of integrity and begins to redeems himself. I didn't care for the profanity and found the story a little over-the-top; but Chabon's descriptions were wonderful. I love an author who can evoke so much atmosphere with so few words. I can't say I loved this book, but if someone told me about another book he had written with a better storyline, I would be sure to give it a try.