The Rules of Dreaming

Swallow Tail Press (May 2013)
TROD cover_216x324Awarded the Kirkus Star for Exceptional Merit
“A mind-bending marriage of ambitious literary theory and classic murder mystery… An exciting, original take on the literary mystery genre.”
-Kirkus Reviews, Read the full review here

“Smart and surprising, with a satisfying dose of modern gothic horror, this book was a joy to read.” —Phoebe Wilcox, author of Angels Carry the Sun

“…a great read and highly recommended.”
—Jack Magnus, Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews
Rules of Dreaming
A beautiful opera singer hangs herself on the eve of her debut at the Met. Seven years later the opera she was rehearsing —Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann— begins to take over the lives of her two schizophrenic children, the doctors who treat them and everyone else who crosses their path, until all are enmeshed in a world of deception and delusion, of madness and ultimately of evil and death. Onto this shadowy stage steps Nicole P., a graduate student who discovers that she too has been assigned a role in the drama. What strange destiny is being worked out in their lives?

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  • Awarded the Kirkus Star – “A mind-bending marriage of ambitious literary theory and classic murder mystery… In this intricately plotted novel, Hartman (winner of the Salvo Press Mystery Novel Award for Perfectly Healthy Man Drops Dead, 2008) spins the familiar trappings of gothic mystery together with a fresh postmodern sensibility, producing a story that’s as rich and satisfying as it is difficult to categorize… Though the novel’s philosophical twists and turns are fascinating, the story also succeeds as an old-fashioned whodunit, and the writing is full of descriptive gems… As Hartman skillfully blurs the lines between fiction and reality, the book becomes a profound meditation on art, identity and their messy spheres of influence.” Kirkus Reviews, Read the full review here

  • “A twisted tale of obsession that will grab you and won’t let go. Highly recommended!” Kelly Jameson, author of What Remained of Katrina

  • 5 Stars – “In The Rules of Dreaming, Dubin, a disgraced journalist-turned blackmailer, sets his sights on a new research project. His research is no different than that he conducted as a journalist — only now he confronts the guilty with his findings and earns a living on the resulting hush money. This latest project involves solving the tragedy of the Morgan family. Maria Morgan was an opera singer who committed suicide seven years before this story takes place and just before she was due to open in a production of The Tales of Hoffmann. Her son and daughter, Hunter and Antonia, both of whom had been diagnosed as having mental illnesses, were institutionalized shortly thereafter and are still residents of the Palmer Institute. Hunter reads and watches videos incessantly, and speaks only scraps of phrases and quotes from the Shakespeare plays he watches over and over. His sister Antonia has not spoken since her mother died. In the same time frame as that in which the blackmailer, Dubin, begins his investigation, Hunter’s psychiatrist, Ned Hoffman, and the rest of the staff at Palmer, are amazed by Hunter’s impromptu piano performance of a Schumann piece.

    Bruce Hartman’s The Rules of Dreaming works on so many levels. There is the underlying mystery concerning Maria’s death entwined with a Gothic, psychological thriller based on the opera The Tales of Hoffmann. Much of the tale is narrated through the perspective of Ned Hoffman, the young psychiatrist who struggles with the clinic’s insistence on pharmaceutical treatments for the patients instead of analysis. There is also the story of Nicole, a young Irish graduate student, who decides to make Hoffman the subject of her dissertation and finds life is terrifyingly similar to art — or is it the other way around? Part of me wanted to rush through the story to get to the solution to the puzzle, and the other part wanted to slow down and enjoy every word and nuance of this complex and satisfying mystery. It is a great read and highly recommended.” Jack Magnus of Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews

  • Highly Recommended, especially for those who love a well plotted mystery. Are we living our own life and in control of our own destiny or are we merely characters in the dreams of someone else? The Rules of Dreaming is a murder mystery, a novel of madness and music that takes us deep into the minds of the characters in this intricately plotted novel which begins in a psychiatric hospital located in a small town just north of New York City. An opera singer apparently commits suicide. Shortly thereafter, her two children are committed to a psychiatric hospital. Seven years later a blackmailer who was once a writer begins an investigation of the suicide and triggers a string of murders meant to look like suicides. The truth lies deep in the minds of the children.

    I especially enjoyed reading this book, having been a US Navy Corpsman who worked in a psychiatric ward and knows full well the fine line that can exist between those who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric illness and those of us who have not (yet) been diagnosed. Like any good mystery, you will find yourself trying to solve the riddle before you get to the end by making careful note of the clues. But are you picking up on the right clues or are you being led astray? This is what drives you forward as you turn the pages in pursuit of the elusive truth. What is reality? What is fantasy? In his book, Man and His Symbols, Carl Jung states, “What we consciously fail to see is frequently perceived by our unconscious, which can pass the information on through dreams. Dreams may often warn us in this way; but just as often, it seems, they do not.” Peter Klein of Allbooks Review

  • 5 stars – “In the book The Rules of Dreaming, the author takes us into the mind of a psychiatrist who works and lives in a modern-day institute in which the mood and architecture are strangely reminiscent of a Gothic period insane asylum. The doctor begins to investigate what could have caused one of his patients to suddenly play a very difficult piano piece, having never had a lesson in his life. The doctor’s actions put him in the middle of an ongoing disagreement between the two founders of the institute about how the patient’s schizophrenia should be treated. The patient and his sister, both permanent residents of the institute, have been living there since their mother, a renowned opera singer, was found hanging from a chandelier in her home rehearsal studio. The mother’s death was ruled a suicide at the time, but the appearance in town of a known blackmailer, who is suddenly asking questions about her death, raises suspicions about conclusions made at the time. Suddenly, we are caught up in a tale of murder and madness, one that could have lasted for more than the seven years since the singer’s death, one that might even have been going on for centuries.

    While you read this marvelous work by Bruce Hartman you get caught up in the madness of the story, which twists and turns and returns. Mr. Hartman uses a device in telling the story that is not obvious until he tells you about it near the end of the book. For me it was one of the best “ah ha” moments I have had in reading in a long time. I recommend this book strongly to anyone who enjoys a fine mystery, laced with a little madness, mischief and the macabre.” Michael McManus of Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews

  • “Smart and surprising, with a satisfying dose of modern gothic horror, this book was a joy to read.” Phoebe Wilcox, author of Angels Carry the Sun


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