This is not your standard crime noir novel. It is not a standard anything. Lavie Tidhar manages to deliver a book that doesn’t just keep you thinking about it whilst you are reading but occupies your thoughts for a while afterwards. There are so many things happening on several levels that it takes a while to digest them all. I’m still not sure I fully understand it now. As cerebral as this story is it is thoroughly enjoyable and easy to read at the same time.
There is probably a rule somewhere that says you should avoid repetition of words. The word cigarette appears more times than I care to count. Rather than being a sign of poor writing it is a clue. Not one that is ever explicitly explained but the inference is there right at the end. This is the kind of thing that you will find throughout this book. It is certainly not the kind of book that explains itself every chapter.
On a simplistic level this is just a detective story. Joe has been tasked with finding Mike Longshott the author of a series of pulp fiction stories. These pulps portray Osama Bin Laden as a vigilante and leave the reader to decide whether he was a terrorist or a freedom fighter in an on-going war.
Joe finds himself crossing the world in search of Mike Longshott at the expense of his mysterious and beautiful client. The ease in which the author transports the reader to the various locations really brings the world to life. The use of opium to tie things together is very clever. Not just in the obvious sense of bringing things back to Afghanistan but you also have to think of the other reasons that opiates are important.
Overall this is a great read but one that you need to think about to really get the most out of it. It takes some chances and does some things that might not work in many books and works them in to a story of real substance (pun intended).