A Dream to Die For Receives Kirkus Revkiew

A debut novel tells the story of a woman with strange dreams attempting to solve her therapist’s murder.

Anxious and self-doubting bartender Celeste Fortune has been recording her dreams at the behest of Larry Blatsky, her therapist and the leader of an organization called the Dreamscape. Some, including Celeste’s ex-fiance, Jake Kelly, consider the group a cult. The goal is for Celeste to experience not only her own dreams, but also those of other people, though she’s beginning to suspect that this is all just nonsense and that Larry is simply attempting to control the lives of his patients. Celeste goes over to Larry’s office, planning to quit their sessions after four years, but when she shares her final dream with him—“A woman, apron tied around her neck, rocking forward and back, like she’s kneading bread”—Larry panics and banishes her from the building. She returns a while later to retrieve a ring he insisted she give him only to find him dying in a pool of blood. The other Dreamers—including a member of the town’s police force—suspect that Celeste, a known “Doubter,” is Larry’s killer. With the help of Jake and her ex-Dreamer friend Gloria Cross, Celeste must find the computer full of recorded dreams that was stolen from Larry’s office. But what if Larry’s murder wasn’t an isolated incident? And what if her dream turns out to be real? Ritz’s precise prose captures the eerie milieu of the novel, which often verges on the supernatural: “She blinked hard, wondering what she was seeing. Larry floated in the space above his seat. Transfixed, Celeste shrank back as his feet and hands morphed into great furry paws, and his mouth and nose elongated into the muzzle of a lion.” The story is darkly comic, and the author delights in saddling her characters with tasks beyond their normal capabilities. The plot takes a while to rev up—the players’ overlapping relationships and past dramas commandeer a lot of page space—but once it gets going, it makes for a suitably engaging murder mystery.

A fun crime tale with some creepy cult elements.

Stephen McArthur