Night Terrors by Dennis Palumbo is the third novel in the series featuring Pittsburgh-based psychotherapist Daniel Rinaldi (available May 7, 2013).
Once again, psychotherapist Daniel Rinaldi has been called in to consult with the police. This time it’s in Wheeling, West Virginia, where a guy has killed a local businessman, but will only lead detectives to the body if Rinaldi rides along. No sooner does he get back from Wheeling than FBI agent Alcott shows up, reluctantly asking for Rinaldi’s help with retired agent Lyle Barnes, whose years as a profiler have apparently taken their toll. To complicate matters, Barnes might be on a hit list related to the case of a small-time serial killer with a lone, angry fan. And, oh yeah, he has no intention of sitting around a hotel room like a sap when he can’t even get a decent night’s sleep.
Now, Rinaldi’s a likeable guy for the most part. He may have a hero complex and get himself into more trouble than his cop friends and enemies would like. Well, “enemies” might be a slight misnomer since about the only ones who don’t seem to think he’s charming are the stressed-out cops and agents who don’t care for “shrinks.”
He’s friends with former patients, even his ex-girlfriend and her new fiancé. He gets along with his family. He has a nice house, a thriving business, and he keeps himself in shape. He even goes out of his way to talk to the mother of the killer he feels is guilty, mostly to assuage her concerns. In other words, aside from his apparent need to chase after shooters and rogue agents, Rinaldi is perfect boyfriend material. And he’s sort of available, ladies.
“Fine lookin’ woman, that Lowrey. Totally buffed. Epic tits.”
“Funny, that’s the same thing she says about you.”
“Bite me. But I mean it, I envy you, Rinaldi.”
“Afraid there’s nothing to envy. We’re just friends.”
“Uh-huh.” A bleary-eyed conspiratorial look. “Just make sure you tell your ol’ buddy Dave all about it when you close the deal.”
“Right, you’ll be the first one I call.”
I was getting pissed off now. It wasn’t just the boozy familiarity. It was the casual way he spoke about Eleanor Lowrey. Though we’d only seen each other for drinks a few times since the summer—busy schedules, some family issues on her part, the usual contemporary approach-avoidance dance—I felt a pang of disloyalty allowing Parnelli to speak crudely about her.
Even drunk, this notion managed to penetrate his thick Italian skull. He tried to get to his feet.
“Hey, Danny, c’mon...Don’t get your shorts in a twist. I like Lowrey. Really. Great cop. Helluva girl.”
He’s patient and understanding with Lowrey, who has feelings for him, feelings for her ex-girlfriend, and feelings of guilt and responsibility related to the family issues.
Then again, there is that hero complex. Might be a little hard on a relationship to know he can’t stop himself from chasing killers through warehouses and alleys whenever the opportunity presents itself.
It wasn’t merely guilt. It also flew in the face of my own self-concept. Over time, belief in yourself and your actions becomes habit. A hard one to break, especially when you’ve allowed yourself to be seen as someone who usually comes through. Once you believe in your skills, your own convictions. Your own publicity.
Is that what I’d been doing the past few years, involving myself in these police cases? Making promises I couldn’t keep? Turning my desire to help those suffering from trauma into some absurd pseudo-heroics? Mere ego disguised as courage, narcissism disguised as compassion?
Probably not questions I could ever answer. Not for sure, anyway. No matter how hard I explored my own motives. As the Buddhists say, “The eye cannot see itself.”
And, he can be a bit of a smartass. In fact, he’s not above a petty dig now and then.
Biegler scratched his chin. “By ‘significantly involved,’ he means you’ve been shot at. On two separate occasions. Not to mention all the goddamn cuts and bruises. Whatever. How valuable that makes your so-called input is open to dispute.”
Eleanor gave me a sympathetic look, but I pretended I hadn’t seen it. Kept my eyes on Biegler.
“You know, Lieutenant, as much as I normally enjoy trading insults with you, I’m not really in the mood right now. A good person was killed just hours ago, right in front of me. A person who was constantly assured by the people in this room—including me—that she’d be safe. Protected.”
“Yeah, I know. So?”
“So let me just say, from the bottom of my heart, go fuck yourself.”
Bristling, Biegler got to his feet. Fists pressing down on the table, knuckles going white. “Listen, you arrogant piece of—”
“Lieutenant!” Alcott had risen, too, squaring his big shoulders. “Shut the hell up! I don’t care what your beef is with him, this isn’t the time or the place.”
Still fuming, Biegler whirled to face Alcott. “Since when did you start kissing Rinaldi’s ass?”
“Since the Director ordered me to cooperate with him. To include him in the investigation.”
“But he’s a goddamn civilian—!”
“Paid consultant,” I corrected him, turning to Alcott. “Though I don’t think the lieutenant has ever gotten over it. I swear, he brings it up every time we’re in the same room. In my clinical opinion, it’s becoming an obsession.”
On the other hand, maybe there is a good reason he’s single. If you’d like to spend some time with him, Night Terrors is Rinaldi’s third adventure.
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Neliza Drew is a tofu-eating teacher and erratic reader with a soft spot for crime fiction. She lives in the heat and humidity of southern Florida with three cats and her adorable hubby. She listens to way too much music, writes often, and spends too much time on Twitter (@nelizadrew).
Read all posts by Neliza Drew on Criminal Element.