cover image A Man Lies Dreaming

A Man Lies Dreaming

Lavie Tidhar. Melville House (PRH, dist.), $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-61219-504-9

Even devoted fans of revisionist fiction might blanche at the premise of Tidhar's latest, which supposes that the National Socialists lost their bid for Germany in 1933, after which the country fell into the hands of Jewish Communists in an event known as the Fall. Now it's 1939 and an underworld of ex-Nazis has taken root in London, where they are essentially an oppressed minority. One of their number is Wolf, a hard-bitten detective with a mysterious past, who breaks his rule against taking on Jewish clients to locate a beautiful woman's missing sister. Soon Wolf is enmeshed in the search for a murderer, uncovering a conspiracy with links to the identity he left behind in Nuremberg and will go to any length to keep hidden. And then there are the dreams that haunt Wolf: dreams of a man named Shomer, a prisoner in a concentration camp who himself dreams of another world. This sounds provocative and transgressive, but the execution is strictly by the numbers. The noir elements are deadeningly predictable and Wolf's investigation quickly turns into a game of spot-the-historical-figure. This is a toothless exercise of What If topped with a trite twist. (Mar.)