Liar, Dreamer, Thief
A young woman’s carefully constructed fantasy world implodes in this brilliantly conceived novel that blurs distinctions between right and wrong, comedy and tragedy, imagination and reality: "Surreal . . . filled with technicolor lies and terrible truths" (Alix E. Harrow, New York Times bestselling and Hugo‑award winning author).
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An Aardvark Book Club pick
Katrina Kim may be broke, the black sheep of her family, and slightly unhinged, but she isn’t a stalker. Her obsession with her co-worker, Kurt, is just one of many coping mechanisms—like her constant shape and number rituals, or the way scenes from her favorite children’s book bleed into her vision whenever she feels anxious or stressed.
But when Katrina finds a cryptic message from Kurt that implies he’s aware of her surveillance, her tenuous hold on a normal life crumbles. Driven by compulsion, she enacts the most powerful ritual she has to reclaim control—a midnight visit to the Cayatoga Bridge—and arrives just in time to witness Kurt’s suicide. Before he jumps, he slams her with a devastating accusation: his death is all her fault.
Horrified, Katrina combs through the clues she’s collected about Kurt over the last three years, but each revelation uncovers a menacing truth: for every moment she was watching him, he was watching her. And the past she thought she’d left behind? It’s been following her more closely than she ever could have imagined.
A gripping page-turner, as well as a sensitive exploration of mental health, Liar, Dreamer, Thief is an intimate portrayal of life in all its complexities—and the dangers inherent in unveiling people’s most closely guarded secrets.
Praise for Liar, Dreamer, Thief
"Liar, Dreamer, Thief is a surreal thriller that blurs the line between daydream and nightmare. It leaves you with the creeping certainty that there is a different world lurking just under the surface of our own, filled with technicolor lies and terrible truths."—Alix E. Harrow, New York Times bestselling and Hugo-award winning author of The Ten Thousand Doors of January
"Clever, urgent, and deeply compassionate. This novel hooked its claws into me and didn't let go—a brilliant, brutal debut that's also deeply thoughtful in its examination of family, mental health, and diaspora. Absolutely stunning."—Grace D. Li, New York Times bestselling author of Portrait of a Thief
"A gorgeously written, genre-blending take on psychological suspense, Liar, Dreamer, Thief uses the frame of an investigation into a man’s apparent suicide to explore the act of meaning-making itself, as well as the ways neurodivergence and marginality both complicate the process and open it to spectacular new possibilities. This brilliant story is unlike anything I’ve read: provocative and unsettling, but grounded by a warm beating heart. Maria Dong is one of the freshest, most vital new voices in fiction."—Ashley Winstead, Author of In My Dreams I Hold a Knife
"Mesmerizing . . . This nuanced depiction of a woman’s struggles with isolation and mental health rings entirely true. Fans of sharp, inventive fiction will be eager for Dong’s next." —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"Both a twisty psychological thriller and a nuanced exploration of mental illness . . . The extremely satisfying conclusion will leave you gobsmacked. I gobbled this one up in an evening, and I highly recommend it for the cold nights ahead."—CrimeReads/Lit Hub
"As a reader, it’s a rare and glorious experience to encounter a story that feels like it was written for you, one that speaks so distinctly to your own view of the world, or yourself, that it almost seems to have come from within. Liar, Dreamer, Thief encompasses many often-unshared points of view; perhaps this book, as others did for Katrina Kim and for Dong herself, will provide that chance to both see and to feel seen."—Shondaland
"The meat of this mystery is genuinely surprising, full of twists and turns and shocking revelations. But the most interesting part of Dong's novel is the candid and tender way she approaches Katrina's mental health. This is one of those rare books where it feels as if the character wrote the story of her own life. Katrina's messiness, burdens, and toxic traits feel so real, and her ability to completely lose herself in a fictional world—she's obsessed with a Korean childhood storybook—is only too relatable for any book lover. A suspenseful and stunning debut."—Buzzfeed
"Defies expectations of genre . . . Just as much as the book is a suspenseful thriller, one in which readers are keen to unravel the convoluted relationship between Katrina and Kurt, it is also an artful exploration of mental illness and the way that axes of marginalization shape reality and perception; and a meditation on the gulf that can exist between immigrant parents and their children."—Electric Lit
"A page-turning mystery about a possible crime and the tenuous nature of reality."—Forbes
"A masterfully harrowing adventure for both reader and narrator . . . a completely absorbing novel, both a terrifying whodunit thriller and a heart-wrenching drama about mental health, family, loneliness and moral relativism. Dong's pacing and revelation of secrets is expert; beware staying up late to finish Katrina's story in one go (and, perhaps, beware nightmares of the Mirror Man) . . . This exceptional debut novel showcases relentless momentum, horrors, compassion and an unforgettable protagonist: not to be missed."—Shelf Awareness
"I love Katrina Kim and this trip into her secret world. This book is a unique, stunning ride, with a memorable heroine who stands out like a mushroom-studded enchanted forest in a kitchen. Heartwarming, tragic, funny, suspenseful, and perfectly weird. I couldn’t put this down."—Emily Austin, Author of Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead
"A masterful work of psychological suspense with a hypnotically unreliable narrator who obfuscates as much as she reveals. Shocking, enthralling, and unnerving, Dong's debut gleams like broken glass."—Ava Reid, Internationally bestselling author of The Wolf and the Woodsman
"An achingly human mystery thriller with magic looming around every corner. I'm in awe of Maria Dong's beautifully flawed characters and richly drawn world, and you will be too. A marvelous debut."—Cadwell Turnbull, Author of No Gods, No Monsters
"Increasingly bonkers twists propel the story to a cogent, poignant close . . . A rabbit hole worth falling down."—Kirkus
"Blurring the lines between truth, reality, magical thinking, and imagination, it’s an extremely strong debut."—Center for Fiction
"An unpredictable rollercoaster ride from start to finish."—PopSugar
"This is wild. It’s a bananapants thriller . . . The story is twisted around and poured out for us in such a way to make it wildly intriguing and complex. It’s quite something."—BookRiot
"A scathing critique of the American workplace, a lyrical examination of mental illness, a poignant reflection on the experiences of second-generation Americans, and an engrossing, white-knuckle thriller that's—somehow—infused with magic. Are books even allowed to be so many kinds of awesome? Dong's remarkable debut is destined to become a classic."—Wendy N. Wagner, Author of The Secret Skin and The Deer Kings
"A brave and beautiful book that negotiates constantly between reality and imagination, with an utterly unique Asian-American narrator, unlike any I've ever read before."
—Samantha Rajaram, Goldie award-winning author of The Company Daughters
"An utterly original, mind-bending mashup that’s equal parts enchanting and suspenseful . . . Dong skillfully and elegantly draws you into her character’s topsy-turvy world and holds you captive at its stunning precipice. A rich, symbolic tapestry of imagination, synchronicity, and the compulsion to see one’s hidden truth, Liar, Dreamer, Thief is fascinating to its core."—Carolyne Topdjian, Author of The Hitman’s Daughter
"Fascinating . . . Murder, spying, lying, and stealing all converge to keep readers on their toes
in this fast-paced tale as they confront a tumultuous and baffling series of events. From start to
finish, this is a captivating story with dire puzzles that beg to be solved one chapter at a time
while readers will continuously wonder whether Dong's narrator can be relied on at all, making
for yet another intriguing mystery."—Booklist
"Took hold of me and lifted me away . . . wonderfully unique and strangely familiar. It’s a fantasy for people who like mysteries and a mystery for people who love fantasy."—Lightspeed Magazine
"A gripping thriller."—Bookish/NetGalley
"A gripping exploration of mental health and an intimate portrayal of life in all its complexities."—The Market Herald
"This is a novel that is nearly impossible to put down."—WMUK Art Beat
"A snappy page-turner, with Katrina’s voice shining through . . . A fascinating hybrid between coming of age novel, workplace novel, and literary thriller." —Chicago Review of Books
"This one is for fans of dark, twisty thrillers with a speculative bent . . . Will keep you guessing what is real until the very end."—Spy.com
"Maria Dong’s surreal debut brings readers on one heck of a rollercoaster ride, with a narrative blurring reality with a waking nightmare. Full of twists and turns and underscored with sharp insights into mental health, this genre-bending read conjures a moshpit of emotions with its wholly original, captivating plot, perfect for those who like their mystery novels with a side of fantasy."—Bookstr