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Sister Mary Murderous

Favorite genres are traditional mystery, police procedurals, espionage, Eurocrime, literary fiction and nonfiction history, especially WW2 and Cold War.  I write about crime fiction at Read Me Deadly (www.readmedeadly.com)

Pulp fiction revenge fantasy against Hitler. Seriously.

A Man Lies Dreaming - Lavie Tidhar

How in the world can I describe this book?  It's definitely the most unusual story I've read in a long time.  It jumps back and forth between the dream of a man, Shomer, who is an inmate at Auschwitz, and a pulp fiction story about an alternate history in which Germany falls to the Communists rather than the Nazis and Adolf Hitler flees to England and becomes a private detective in London.


Wait, what?  Seriously, this is the story.  Does it sound offensive?  I can definitely see that the notion is offensive, but it reminded me a little bit of the Quentin Tarantino movie, Inglourious Basterds, in that it's a little like a revenge fantasy; a lousy fate we wish could have happened to Hitler and his henchmen.


"The Fall," as the Communist takeover in Germany is called in this novel, happened when the Nazis were a fairly new party.  Hitler was known outside Germany, but not well.  This allows him to adopt a new name, Wolf, and not be recognized by many people.


The reason why this is a revenge fantasy is that Wolf is absolutely pathetic.  He's poor, spectacularly unsuccessful, and a series of almost comically bad things happen to him after he's forced by his penury to take a case from that classic trope of pulp fiction private detective stories, the mysterious, glamorous dame––a Jewish one.  Humiliations galore!


I can't say much more about the plot without being spoiler-y, but I'll just say that it's deliriously entertaining.  At the same time, though, the Shomer portions leaven the story and keep us tethered enough to reality so that it's not frivolous.  Like good pulp fiction noir, there's a real morality play going on underneath the private detective formula.