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by Dennis Palumbo
Poisoned Pen, May 2013
250 pages
ISBN: 1464201293

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

There are two finely drawn and fascinating characters in Dennis Palumbo's NIGHT TERRORS, the latest installment in his Daniel Rinaldi Series. The first is psychotherapist and police consultant Daniel Rinaldi. In a fast-paced action-packed adventure, Rinaldi works with both the police and the FBI to try to capture a serial killer whose list of intended victims seems to include anyone involved in the imprisonment and death of another serial killer. Rinaldi lives in an area of Pittsburgh called Mt. Washington and pursues the case by driving around the city in a succession of freezing winter snowstorms. The city neighborhoods and rivers, as well as its history and the relics of that history, like abandoned steel mills, all figure strongly in this tale. They are presented with a familiarity and specificity that draw the reader in and help the reader visualize the action. Pittsburgh's proximity to Ohio and West Virginia are also important, as both of these locations are involved in the murders. Thus it may be said that the city of Pittsburgh is itself a major character in the novel.

Rinaldi has a strong rebellious streak and does not get along with the police and FBI agents in charge of the investigation. They treat him poorly and expect the worst from him. What they also expect is that he will become physically involved in the case, chasing leads and putting himself in harm's way because he has a hero complex. Whether he does or does not want to be a hero, he is certainly an unlikely one - a 40-year-old psychotherapist who definitely was not trained by Navy Seals. When he goes after the bad guys who are shooting at his friends, or throws himself off a balcony to reach a fleeing colleague, he seems to do so instinctively, to be of use and save lives. He puts himself in jeopardy because he is convinced that he must, but ends up battered, bleeding, and lucky to be alive. He is initially brought in to help one of the potential victims, a retired FBI profiler named Lyle Barnes. Barnes cannot sleep because he is subject to deep nightmares called night terrors. These are so disturbing that he keeps himself up for days at a time. Before Rinaldi can establish a working relationship with him, Barnes escapes from protective custody.

The FBI agents and police officers who both aid and hinder Rinaldi are not as well drawn or interesting as is Rinaldi.There are a number of long chase and shoot 'em up scenes that seem more cinematic than literary, which may have to do with the author having been a screenwriter first. There is also a sex scene that does not disturb the narrative but which does not add to it either. In spite of these issues, NIGHT TERRORS is a compelling read. Palumbo, now a psychotherapist himself, gives the psychological observations that are bandied about the ring of truth. Rinaldi's words at the end seem like a voiceover, promising that we will meet him on his next adventure when he is again called up to consult on criminal investigations. Readers will certainly look forward with eagerness to that future encounter.

Anne Corey is a writer, poet, teacher and botanical artist in New York's Hudson Valley.

Reviewed by Anne Corey, February 2014

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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