Dennis Palumbo,
Fever Dream
(Poisoned Pen Press, 2011)

Dennis Palumbo, a Hollywood screenwriter turned psychotherapist, has created a mystery series -- of which Fever Dream is the second offering -- featuring Daniel Rinaldi, a Pittsburgh psychologist who consults with the Pittsburgh police. As this one opens, he is called to the scene of a bank robbery, where a hostage situation is unfolding. One of the hostages, a young woman named Treva Williams, who has been released by the robber and is lapsing into incoherent shock.

The situation blows up, resulting in a bank lobby filled with dead hostages and an escaped killer. Rinaldi is caught up in an escalating search for a killer that involves shifting identities, kidnapping and more murder. It also involves a campaign for the governorship of Pennsylvania, which may be connected to the case.

Palumbo lines all of this out competently, keeping his complicated storyline going at a good pace, creating effective action scenes and interesting characters in sharp prose, marred only by his habit of writing a series of sentence fragments next to each other, a stylistic trick that I lost patience with after a while. Still, Rinaldi makes a good series lead and the supporting characters are nicely rounded, given personalities and needs and drives of their own. If there's a drawback, it is that not all of Rinaldi's surprises come as a surprise. A major twist near the end of the book turned out to be no trick at all, since I saw it coming long before Rinaldi dealt it out. Still, Fever Dream accomplishes what it sets out to and gives the reader a nice ride.

book review by
Michael Scott Cain

21 January 2012

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