By Dennis Palumbo
Reviewd by Janice Shapiro, MFT Intern
Having the choice to review the only piece of fiction for CAMFT among all the non-fictions selections available was a challenging undertaking, but I’m glad I did. Dennis Palumbo’s book Fever Dream, Published by Poisoned Pen Press, November 2011, started me thinking just how powerful our education, training and experience in the mental health field is as it influences many areas of our lives. Fever Dream is the second novel in A Daniel Rinaldi Mystery series. It is a crime mystery not to be missed, and readers in the mental health field will have an added understanding of its specialness.
Dr. Rinaldi, the hero and narrator of the story, is a clinical psychologist specializing in victims of violent crime whose traumatic experience has left them with residual anxiety, depression, paranoia, and fear. In addition to his private practice, he is a consultant with the Pittsburgh Police Department. The consultant part of his job gets him mixed up in all sorts of dangerous crime solving adventures.
Fever Dream begins with a bloody bank robbery in progress and only one hostage released. The victim is traumatized and covered with blood and specks of brain matter. Dan Rinaldi is called to come right away to attend to the hostage and help the police get needed information from her about what’s going on inside the bank.
It’s been a year since Rinaldi’s last adventure with the Pittsburgh Police Department. Readers are reunited with favorite characters from the first novel in the series, Mirror Image. One such character is District Attorney Leland Sinclair. Sinclair is not Rinaldi’s favorite person, but he has to work and get along with him. This year is an election year and Sinclair is running for governor of the state. From here on until the very end of the story, readers should get ready for exciting adventures, interesting characters, intricately woven plots with lots of twists and turns, love interests, violence, action and many, many surprises throughout. Calling this book a ‘page turner’ is an understatement. You won’t be able to put it down!
Many crime stories have all the above elements, but this novel has something special that no other crime stories I know have: Dennis Palumbo, M.A., MFT. His biography states that he was a successful Hollywood screenwriter before becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist. He is currently a psychotherapist in private practice for 20 years. In my opinion, his education, training and experience is what makes his writing stand out. His characters are authentic and he takes them into a uniquely humanistic dimension. The descriptions of the settings and actions are sometimes poetic and often filled with metaphors. His character, Dr. Rinaldi, gives his all to others before he has a chance to take care of himself (sound familiar?). Mr. Palumbo knows his psychology and what it’s like working in the mental health profession and brings all of this into his writing.
The combination of psychotherapist and author got me thinking: the years it takes to become a therapist and the experience one gets as a therapist can influence many different aspects of our lives. So, I encourage you to read and enjoy Fever Dream, but after you finally put the book down, keep thinking about how the therapist in you flows out into the different areas of your life.