Mirror Image (Daniel Rinaldi Series #1)

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Overview

MIRROR IMAGE, a complex, erotic novel of suspense, is the first in a series of mysteries featuring Dr. Daniel Rinaldi, a psychologist who consults with the Pittsburgh Police. His specialty is treating victims of violent crime?those who?ve survived an armed robbery or kidnapping, but whose traumatic experience still haunts them.

Kevin Merrick, a college student and victim of an armed assault, is one of these people.

A fragile, troubled kid ...

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Overview

MIRROR IMAGE, a complex, erotic novel of suspense, is the first in a series of mysteries featuring Dr. Daniel Rinaldi, a psychologist who consults with the Pittsburgh Police. His specialty is treating victims of violent crime—those who’ve survived an armed robbery or kidnapping, but whose traumatic experience still haunts them.

Kevin Merrick, a college student and victim of an armed assault, is one of these people.

A fragile, troubled kid desperate for a role model, a sense of identity, Kevin has begun dressing like Rinaldi, acting like him, mirroring his appearance. Before Daniel has a chance to work this through with his patient, he finds Kevin brutally murdered. Stunned, he and the police suspect that he, not Kevin, had been the intended target.

Feeling responsible, Rinaldi is determined to help find the killer, who’s begun leaving death threats for the psychologist. His journey takes him through a labyrinth of friends and colleagues, any one of whom may be the killer. It also includes an affair with a beautiful, free-spirited Assistant DA with secrets of her own. And when Kevin’s identity as the estranged son of a Bill Gates-like biotech giant is revealed, the investigation of his murder turns into a national story…even as another person turns up dead.

A page-turning novel of suspense, MIRROR IMAGE weaves together a puzzling mystery, full of unexpected twists, with an intense, erotic love story.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Dennis  Palumbo establishes himself as a master storyteller with his first crime novel, Mirror Image. Using his background as a licensed psychotherapist to good advantage, Palumbo infuses his fast-moving, suspenseful story with fascinating texture, interesting characters, and the twists, turns, and surprises of a mind-bending mystery. Very impressive.”                                                          —Stephen J. Cannell, writer/creator of The Rockford FilesNew York Times best-selling mystery author

 
 
Mirror Image is a deviously plotted thriller with lots of shocks and surprises you won’t see coming, and a smart, sympathetic hero-narrator who takes you along as he peels back layers of lies and wrong guesses to get closer to the truth.”                               —Thomas Perry,  Edgar-winning, New York Times best-selling author
 
 
“Dennis Palumbo’s experience as a psychotherapist hasn’t just helped him make his hero, therapist Dr. Daniel Rinaldi, authentic, human and a man in full, it’s endowed him with the insight to craft a debut thriller filled with action, deduction and romance, expertly paced for maximum mind-bending suspense.”        
—Dick Lochte, award-winning author and critic
 
 
“Dennis Palumbo’s novel is stark and disturbing but there’s a humanity running through the core of it that makes this book special. Maybe it’s Palumbo’s dual training—as a writer and as a psychotherapist—that allows him to plumb the depths and bring up not only darkness but those occasional diamonds of light that sparkle and illuminate and make a book worth reading.”                    —T. Jefferson Parker,   Edgar-winning, New York Times bestselling author
 
 
Mirror Image is a standout mind-bender! A wonderfully constructed novel that has you seeing double—and all through the eyes of an intriguingly fresh character: a psychologist. Dennis Palumbo knows his craft. This guy can write.”                             —Ridley Pearson,  New York Times best-selling crime author
 
 
Mirror Image is a rich, complex thriller, built around a sizzling love affair. A compelling read with surprising twists and characters that leap off the page.” 
—Bobby Moresco,  Oscar-winning writer/producer of Crash and Million Dollar Baby
 
 
“A gripping thriller, chock full of the desired twists and cliffhangers, with the added layer and intriguing access of a therapist narrator/detective. A page-turner!”
—Aimee Bender, prize-winning author

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590587522
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2010
  • Series: Daniel Rinaldi Series , #1
  • Pages: 250
  • Sales rank: 824,932
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter, Dennis Palumbo is now a licensed psychotherapist in private practice. He's the author of a mystery collection, From Crime to Crime, and his short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, The Strand and elsewhere.

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Read an Excerpt

Mirror Image

A Daniel Rinaldi Mystery
By Dennis Palumbo

Poisoned Pen Press

Copyright © 2010 Dennis Palumbo
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-61595-239-7


Chapter One

Shame is a deep well.

Face tightened in anguish, a young man named Kevin Merrick was sitting in my office, telling me about the first time he'd slept with his sister.

"I musta been eight or nine," he said. Kevin was in his early twenties, but thinning hair and pained, sunken eyes made him seem older, faded somehow. The three-week-old growth of beard didn't help.

"I'm sorry, Dr. Rinaldi. I didn't think ... I mean, shit, it was all so long ago ..."

"Take your time," I said.

I let a silence fill the space between us. But inwardly, I was thrilled. After months of intensive work, of building trust and rapport, he was finally opening up, risking connection with another human being.

Not an easy task for him, considering what he'd been through. Life had battered him, left invisible bruises no less real than the old needle tracks on his forearms, the self-inflicted scissor-cuts emblazoned on his wrists.

His eyes flitted to the window overlooking Forbes Avenue five floors below. The steady drumming of the rain masked the usual hum of afternoon traffic snaking out of the Pitt campus.

Beyond, through the grey-black webbing of the storm, you could just make out Heinz Hall and Carnegie Museum, venerable Pittsburgh landmarks, hunched beneath the regal spire of the Cathedral of Learning.

Kevin stirred, hands massaging the arms of his chair. This calmed him. It had taken time, but my office had finally become a sanctuary for him, a refuge. Once, he'd jokingly referred to it as the Womb with a View.

He did seem to derive solace from the place: the tan leather sofa, the twin brass table lamps, the marble-topped antique desk. My worn Tumi briefcase leaned against it.

Then there was the stuff my patients didn't see—the photo of Barbara taken on our honeymoon, tucked away on a book shelf; a copy of Ringsider magazine, autographed by Sugar Ray Leonard, sharing cabinet space with patient files and a pewter hip flask—a gift from my old man after the Allentown fight, twenty years ago. Consolation prize, I guess. I'd gone down in the seventh.

Kevin's eyes had been slowly sweeping the room, as though searching a crowd for a familiar face. His gaze rested finally on some psych journals stacked on the floor.

"Karen was four years older than me," he said at last. "We were in her room ... it was late. I knew I was supposed to be in bed, but Dad hadn't tucked me in ..."

"Did he usually do that?"

"Every night, since the year before, when Mom died ... I remember people saying what a burden he had now. That he had to be both mother and father to me and Karen ..." He blinked up at me. "What was I saying? ..."

"That your father wasn't in Karen's room that night."

"Yeah. Anyway—" His voice caught. "All of a sudden, we were in her bed ... just foolin' around ... Laughing. I remember how girlie I thought the sheets smelled ..."

"Girlie?"

"You know what I mean." A crooked smile. "I remember thinking, Yuck, how could she sleep in here? ... Those pink, frilly sheets with the girlie smell ... Yuck!"

His smile faded.

"Then ..." He dropped his head. "Then she touched me ... and I was so confused. It felt so strange. Not bad, but not good either ... I mean, I knew what was happening ... I was already pretty good at jerkin' off, ya know? ..."

He tried to laugh, a dry rasp that held no mirth.

"And I loved Karen so much ... I mean, I hated her, too, 'cause she was my older sister and a bitch and everything, but I also loved her ... and ever since Mom died, she was—"

He looked away again, at the window.

"And then she had her pajamas off," he said slowly, "and I could see—it was dark, but I could sorta see everything, and feel everything ... and it felt so ..."

Suddenly, a sheet of shame reddened his face. His hands shot up, palms pressing against his eyes, like a child trying to push the tears back in. He cried out.

I leaned closer, on the edge of my leather chair. I could almost see a shudder move through his body, like a powerful wave. I also saw how thin and bony his shoulders were under his light blue shirt.

Finally, he turned, eyes searching for mine. His face was bleached of color, lifeless.

"I ... I felt her hand on the back of my neck ... I was shocked, surprised ... The hand was so strong, pressing my face down ... forcing my mouth between her legs ... forcing me to ... making me ... taste her ..."

Great sobs wracked his whole body. Without a thought, I reached across and held him, felt his body slump in my embrace. His tears were wet on my cheeks.

We stayed that way for an endless minute, the blood pounding in my ears. My own feelings shot through me. Anger. Pity. Some vague sense of anguish ...

Finally, I released him, gently guiding him back against his chair. He seemed to be swallowed by it, legs half-drawn up in a fetal position. He closed his eyes.

I took a breath. Kevin and I would have to explore the meaning of my embracing him at some future date. For now, it was enough for me to know that I'd had the impulse to hold him, to cradle him, and so I did.

Fuck it, somebody should've done it a long time ago.

As I watched him settle down, I thought again about the clinical risks I often found myself taking with him. After all my years as a psychologist, it was always new; each patient a new beginning, a chance to teach myself how to do therapy all over again.

I recalled, too, something that Jung had told one of his students. "It's not what you know that heals," he said. "It's who you are." A sentiment I agree with. It's also a notion that conveniently flatters the narcissism woven into every therapist's personality.

Kevin's body had relaxed, and he was reaching for the Kleenex on the side table. As he dried his eyes, I managed a smile, which he managed to return.

Some deep chasm, some important gulf between us had been crossed, and we both knew it. Despite the potential for significant pain ahead, he'd made another crucial step on his personal journey. And at the end, I believed—I had to believe—there would come a healing.

I'd never find out.

Within an hour, Kevin Merrick would be dead.

Chapter Two

Kevin had been referred to me six months earlier, following confinement in the West Penn County Psych Ward. He'd been found wandering the aisles of a 7-11 store, bruised and bleeding at three in the morning. Barefoot, wearing only torn pajamas.

He led the police back to his place, an apartment just off-campus, where the trashed room backed up his story: he'd been awakened around midnight by an intruder in a ski mask rifling his bureau drawers. They struggled, then Kevin managed to get free and out through the window. He told the cops he could only remember running like hell, into the night ...

And then his memory went blank, until he found himself in the convenience store hours later, being rousted by two uniformed patrolmen.

After his discharge from the ward—where a computer check revealed he was no stranger to local mental health facilities—Kevin was questioned again by the police and a sympathetic Assistant DA, but he could offer no new information about the crime. All he could remember about the man was that he was big, and reeked of sweat.

"Probably a hype, needin' cash," the investigating officer said. "Fuckers don't use ATM's."

The police got a break two days later, when another local resident called 911. Same scenario: sweaty guy in a ski mask helping himself to cash and jewelry in the bedroom. Only this time the apartment's occupant—a retired steel-worker named Hanrahan—grabbed a baseball bat from under his bed and knocked the guy senseless. He was still groggy when the cops arrived.

With his mask off, the burglar was just another junkie, a scared black kid from the Hill District. His name was James Stickey, aka "Big Stick." Nineteen, with two prior convictions. They gave him eight years upstate.

Meanwhile, Kevin just wanted to forget about the whole thing and get back to class. It was springtime, and a week from finals. But his blackout the night of the crime, along with reports of nightmares and frequent disorientation, had worried the Assistant DA enough to call the Department's Chief Community Liaison Officer.

Who was worried enough to call me.

People like Kevin are my specialty. Victims of violent crime. Those who've survived the assault, the kidnapping, the crime itself—but who still lived with the trauma, the fear. The daily, gut-wrenching dread.

Or, perhaps even harder, lived with the guilt of having survived at all when a loved one didn't.

My job is to help them remember what they need to remember, so that they can forget. Or at least achieve a kind of forgetting that lets them move on with what's left of their lives.

Though the Pittsburgh Police have a number of shrinks on the payroll, they sometimes make use of outside consultants. Which is how I got into this in the first place.

* * *

It was about five years ago, during the public panic and media firestorm caused by Troy David Dowd, the monster they dubbed "the Handyman." A serial killer who tortured his victims with screwdrivers, pliers, and other tools, he'd murdered and dismembered twelve people before his eventual capture.

Dowd would snatch people outside of roadside diners or highway rest stops in isolated rural areas throughout the state. Only two of his intended victims managed to escape. One of these, a single mother of three, was sent to me.

Her name was Sylvia. Bound with duct tape, she'd been kept for two days in a stifling, stench-filled canvas tent, buried under a pile of twisted, decaying body parts from his earlier victims. Somehow, during one of Dowd's frequent absences, she was able to cut through a section of tape using the sharp edge of a metallic watch band still strapped to the wrist of a severed forearm.

For weeks after her escape, she'd wake up screaming, clawing the air at the imagined bloody, blackened stumps encasing her. Recurrent flashbacks of her ordeal with Dowd continued long after his arrest and conviction.

In fact, it wasn't until almost a year later—by which time Dowd was on Death Row, where he still sits pending his latest appeal—that Sylvia was willing to even leave the house. She'd walk around the block once with her oldest daughter and go back inside.

I considered this a victory.

My work with her caught the attention of the city fathers as well as the press, and soon the cops were using me on a regular basis whenever they feared for a crime victim's mental health. Or when the DA worried that the victim's emotional stability might be in question when it came time to testify.

Why me? Because of my background in Post-Traumatic Stress, working with Gulf and Iraqi War vets. Because I'd treated numerous victims of trauma and abuse at two state hospitals.

And probably because of something else, something personal, that inextricably bonds me to my patients, and always will. Something very personal.

Kevin was stirring.

I smiled at him again, absently pushing my hand back through my hair. Then I instinctively—an instinct reborn a thousand times—felt near the top of my head for the old scar, the familiar ridged surgical scar, where the bullet had gone in ...

Chapter Three

Kevin couldn't look at me. Shifting uncomfortably, he finally bolted from his chair. He stood, trembling. Staring out at the black October rain.

I turned to the small table beside my chair for a pen. The monogrammed one from my alma mater. It was gone.

I sighed. I knew where it was. With his body half-turned away from me at the window, I couldn't tell which pocket it was in. But I knew Kevin had it. He'd taken it.

As he'd taken other items from my office over the past months. A stapler. A letter-opener. A silver card case.

In the byzantine mesh of our relationship, Kevin was aware that I knew he'd taken these items, and that I probably wouldn't mention it. And felt both shame at his deeds and elation that he was getting away with it. Then shame at feeling the elation.

What Kevin had been doing, these last few months of treatment, was becoming me.

Hesitantly at first, and then quite blatantly, he'd begun dressing like me. Gone were the Pitt sweatshirt and jeans. He now wore therapeutically-neutral dress shirts and Dockers. Not to mention dark-framed glasses. His beard, without my telltale sprigs of gray, was coming in nicely.

Then today, when I opened the connecting door to the waiting room for our regularly scheduled appointment, I found Kevin hanging up a dripping jacket next to mine on the standing coat rack.

"Can you believe this weather?" he'd said. "Cold as hell, too. I shoulda worn a sweater or somethin'."

I must have been staring at the coat rack, for his glance nervously followed mine. His jacket was light brown, very similar to my own new Eddie Bauer. I'd only worn it a couple times to the office. But enough for Kevin to have registered it and found a similar one.

As I sat here now, watching him stand with his back to me at the window, I thought about those two jackets hanging on the rack in the next room, and wondered if I knew what the hell I was doing.

In our first few sessions, he'd appeared to have some classic "borderline" symptoms—poor self-image, a history of drug use and failed, half-hearted suicide attempts. He was suspicious of my attempts to help him, especially when I prodded him to relive the experience of finding an intruder in his room. These memories only reinforced his sense of violation, of vulnerability.

Then, below these feelings of dread and panic, the predictable litany of self-criticism emerged: he should have locked his windows. Fought back harder against the guy. Hell, maybe he deserved what happened to him ...

I'd seen it a hundred times. The victim blaming himself as a way to make sense of what's happened, to gain at least the fantasy of control over events that threatened to overwhelm him.

These feelings faded over time, and with them the nightmares, the panic attacks. We began to concentrate less on Kevin's symptoms and more on him.

It was then, as our bond deepened, that Kevin started to mirror me in dress and appearance. I didn't do anything to stop it. Given the shattering loss of his mother at a young age—and now with confirmation of my hunch that he'd been sexually abused as well—it was no surprise he'd be yearning for an identity. Even one that was borrowed.

"If I'm like you," some part of him was saying to me, "I'll be okay. So I'll become you."

And I'd been letting him do it. Part clinical judgment, part gut feeling. He'd come into my practice so lost, so fragmented, he needed a platform on which to stand. I was willing to be that platform. For how long, I didn't know. I'd hoped that same gut feeling would tell me when it was long enough.

A position I got all kinds of grief for. Recently, I'd presented Kevin's case at one of our peer review conferences at Ten Oaks, a clinic in suburban Penn Hills where I'd been on staff before going into private practice. Predictably, some of my colleagues there were outraged at what I was doing with Kevin. Or allowing to happen.

"It's just an extreme variation of Kohut's twinship longing," I'd argued.

Brooks Riley, the new shrink down from Harvard Med, disagreed. "No, it's a pathological accommodation. The poor bastard's willing to disappear, to allow himself to be literally usurped, and replaced by you."

He shook his head. "Christ, Rinaldi, I knew you were nuts. I didn't know you were arrogant as well."

Riley was a prick, but maybe he was right. I knew I was taking a big risk—sure as hell not the first I'd taken in my work. But I was convinced it was paying off. Kevin's bond with me was stronger now. He'd just trusted me enough to reveal the details of his incest with his sister.

A painful, anguished revelation. In the strange, hallowed vocabulary of my world, a breakthrough ...

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Mirror Image by Dennis Palumbo Copyright © 2010 by Dennis Palumbo. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 20, 2011

    Outstanding writing, don't miss this one!

    Ridley Pearson is quoted on the cover of this book "A standout mind-bender! This guy can write!" I couldn't agree more, he can write and he does a stellar job of proving it with this first-in-a-series book. In fact, I can't wait for the 2nd book to show up!

    Dr. Daniel Rinaldi is a psychologist in Pittsburgh. He is in private practice but also consults for the police. When one of his patients is killed right beside his car, Dan is determined to find out who killed him and why.

    There are lots of twists and turns to this story and in some ways it is a little more "hard-boiled" than I normally read, but I zoomed through it because it is so well written. You care about Dan, you also care about Kevin the lost soul who was killed. It is also full of suspense and puzzles and some basic truisms in life. All in all an outstanding contribution to the mystery field.

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  • Posted March 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Psychological Thriller

    Dr. Daniel Rinaldi is a clinical psychologist and a consultant for the Pittsburgh Police. The book starts with him in a counseling session with Kevin Merrick, who was a victim sexual abuse as a child. Rinaldi notices that Kevin is dressing more and more like him but decides to focus on Kevin's other more pressing issues. Little did he know that by the end of the night, Kevin would be murdered and die in Rinaldi's arms outside his office. The police think that Rinaldi was the victim and give him protection but Rinaldi is determined he is going to find out who Kevin's murderer is. Little does he know where this investigation is going to take him and the danger he is in. Kevin's dad, Miles Wingate is a wealthy biotech giant, who will do anything to protect himself and his company. This does not stop Rinaldi, as he knows that Wingate knew that Kevin and his sister were involved sexually when they were children. Things become more complicated when another of Rinaldi's clients starts acting crazy and tries to kill himself. Rinaldi continues to investigate and another murder occurs putting not just himself but his fellow associates under suspicion. Dennis Palumbo, himself a licensed psychologist writes as one who knows the field. This thriller is complex and a page-turner that keeps you guessing to the very end. The novel does contain graphic sexual content and language. This is a debut novel for Palumbo but I think more will be coming.

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  • Posted December 26, 2010

    Whodunnit has one yearning for more

    An upbeat setting, convincing characters and a plot that has one on the edge of one's seat from page one-what more could a reader ask for in a crime novel? Once more, established mystery writer Dennis Palumbo has pulled off a fine fast-paced whodunnit that has one yearning for more. Set in Pittsburgh, with the backdrop of the "old Appalachian Hills, sloping away before spreading urban tendrils, looking as pristine and timeless as when the first settlers came over four hundred years ago", the novel has such tangible atmosphere that the reader is locked into the plot by Palumbo's versatile writing, which changes from poetic description to slick dialogue in the blink of an eye. The characters range from the psychotic (with part of the novel being set in a psychiatric institution, which has its fair share of scary and battle-scarred inmates) to the professional (though the latter seem, at times, not to be too far off the former.). Palumbo's own background as a psychotherapist enables him to imbue the lead character with authenticity and compassion towards the emotionally maimed and much undervalued social misfits. Dr. Daniel Rinaldi is a clinical psychologist who specializes in treating victims of violent crime, to which he himself has also, ironically enough, been subject, with his wife being shot in a mugging in front of his very eyes. So, in a way, he also has some emotional baggage with which to contend. Not only that, but he's also at loggerheads with Dr. Brooks Riley, Chief Psychiatrist at Ten Oaks, the most successful private psychiatric facility in the state of Pennsylvania, who's determined to see to it that he gets Rinaldi's license revoked. When a patient of Rinaldi's opts for dressing just like him, and gets viciously stabbed to death just outside the doc's offices, all hell breaks loose. Tracking down the suspect, naturally, forms the major impetus of the plot, though there are loads of characters whose interrelationships tend at times to be of the rockiest kind, but at times reflect what true friendship is all about. The professional details regarding post-traumatic stress disorder which are neatly woven into the plot are fascinating. The characters are well-rounded and credible, with a fair amount of attraction between the sexes adding extra spice to the unfolding drama. One cannot doubt that Palumbo has hands-on experience of the police and court proceedings which are so integral to the plot. His mystery stories have appeared in the past in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, The Strand Magazine and Written By, as well as in other eminent journals. Mirror Image should make a great read for anyone interested in the crime genre, as long as you are open-minded enough not to mind the occasional cussing which goes with the territory.

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  • Posted October 30, 2010

    Mirror Image is a TERRIFIC THRILLER--HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

    In Mirror Image, Dennis Palumbo has a terrific story to tell and he tells it beautifully. It's a story reminiscent of the best Post World War II noir novels, and yet it is a riveting tale with a definite 21st Century sensibility. Mr. Palumbo presents one great character after another, each one richly drawn, and in Dr. Daniel Rinaldi, he has created a living, breathing "everyman," a Hitchcockian hero caught up in a maze of suspicion and intrigue, someone you keep rooting for until the final revelations literally blast you out of your chair. One can only hope there's a movie in the works--Dennis, are you working on the screenplay?--and that Mirror Image is the first of many Dr. Rinaldi thrillers. I can't wait for the next installment.

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  • Posted July 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    exciting thriller

    The Pittsburgh Police department consults with psychologist Dr. Daniel Rinaldi on particularly nasty cases like kidnappings. Daniel is considered a noted expert helping victims of violent crime cope as most remain haunted by the trauma long after the horror has passed.

    College student Kevin Merrick was a victim of an armed assault. He is traumatized and desperately in need of a hero. Kevin feels he found one in his analyst Dr. Rinaldi. The troubled student begins to emulate his idol, but before Daniel can help him, someone viciously murders Kevin. Shocked by what happened to his patient, Kevin and PPD believe he, not the student, was the target. The culprit erred because of how much the unfortunate young man dressed like the psychologist. However when PPD realize who the victim's dad is, they reconsider their theory even as the killer floods Rinaldi with threatening messages. Rinaldi is not one to sit around so he begins an inquiry into who wants him dead and why.

    This is an exciting thriller starring a fascinating shrink who learns a lot about himself with his affair with an officer of the court and his need for compassionate justice. Readers will enjoy Rinaldi's psychological sleuthing as he goes after his stalker but not just for himself; as he feels he owes Kevin "peace" as he prefers to believe his late client's sister that he is in a better place and will feel even more contentment if his killer is caught. Although a mocking egomaniac psychopathic killer has been used too frequently as has a psychologist as a police consultant sleuthing (Kellerman's Dr. Delaware), Rinaldi's sense of purpose and his skills make for an enjoyable mystery.

    Harriet Klausner

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