Katherine Armstrong has worked in publishing for over six years. She is a crime fiction Editor for an independent publishing company in London.
Lies Dreaming is a
begins like a typical hardboiled novel with a ‘broad’ coming to the detective’s
office and asking him to find her missing sister and continues in the
traditional vein; except for flashes that all is not what it seems in this
narrative. The prose revels in the cadence of the hardboiled vernacular: it’s
slangy, brutish and pays particular attention to bodily functions, swearing and
violence. This is not an easy read, mainly due to its subject matter.
the PI hired to find Judith Rubenstein by her sister, the beautiful and sultry
Isabella, fled to London from Germany in 1933 after the collapse of Fascism and
the rise of Communism. He used to be somebody – he used to rule – but now he’s
just Wolf, another nobody with dreams of grandeur trying to get by on the rough
streets of London. Lavie Tidhar does not shy away from showing Wolf and his
‘friends’ in all their anti-semitic glory. These are Nazis and their language
reflects their bigotry and hatred. What Tidhar does well is to condemn them
using their own speeches and hypocrasies against them and it becomes
uncomfortable reading at times. You know who Wolf really is but it’s only at
the end that his full name is mentioned. Yet Tidhar manages to make him
vulnerable and sympathetic while, at the same time, alienating him from the
reader by having him unleash diatribes against Jews, women and gays.
makes this not just another pastiche of hardboiled noir, is the realisation as
you read it that Wolf and his London exists only in the mind of a Jewish
writer, Shomer, who is a prisoner in Auschwitz. Tidhar juxtaposes the harsh
realities of the camp with the harsh realities of Wolf’s world and yet there
are flashes of humour here too, and Wolf – like Marlowe and Spade before him –
takes several beatings, which he somehow manages to walk away from.
A Man Lies Dreaming is a
novel that deliberately sets out to make the reader uncomfortable. The 1930s
London that Tidhar portrays is troublingly close to today’s capital as debates
about immigration rage and Oswald Mosley, wine in one hand, ballot paper in the
other, looks poised to take power. This is a novel that is provocative and
imaginative and reminds us that even the worst people are neither all bad nor