Fever Dream

Image of Fever Dream (Agent Pendergast Series, 10)
Release Date: 
May 10, 2010
Grand Central Publishing
Reviewed by: 

In the second book in this series, Daniel Rinaldi, a psychiatric consultant to the Pittsburgh police department for trauma victims, gets called to bank robbery/hostage situation. A just-freed hostage is understandably traumatized,but police want Rinaldi to get Treva Williams to talk about the ongoing situation inside the bank in order to determine their strategy. Rinaldi can’t get much out of her, and the police go forward. It doesn’t go well.

He struggles with his own shortcomings. One of the reasons he’s so good with trauma victims is that he had a violent father—a cop. Even the Gold Gloves boxing matches he entered as young man didn’t win his father’s respect—some wounds take a long time to heal.

The robbery highlights bad doctrines, both political and personal. His biggest supporter in the department, Detective Eleanor Lowrey, has a prior history with the hostage: she’s an old girlfriend. The bad breakup may have been a long time ago, but Eleanor doesn’t sound like she’s over it. And her cop partner is not pulling his weight, showing up late and stinking of booze.

The pressure to solve the robbery is intense not so much because people were killed, but because the D.A. (who’s running for governor in a close race) wants to show himself as a tough law-and-order guy. And a newspaper reporter is trying to confirm or deny corruption rumors swirling around said D.A.

It’s nice to read a tough guy mystery set somewhere other than New York or LA. Author Palumbo has a nice feel for Pittsburgh, a city that’s been the butt of many jokes.

As he drives downtown he recalls his past:

“The gleaming spires of the ‘new’ Pittsburgh-chrome and glass monuments to the city’s many software and financial giants—rose into view, interspersed with the venerable turn-of-the-century buildings I remembered from my youth. The Old County building, the brown bricked courthouse, the once-proud arches of Kaufmann’s Department Store, where, as a child, I’d dutifully be taken at summer’s end to get new school clothes.”

Dennis Palumbo is also smart enough not to give all the good lines to the hero.

The FBI agent in charge disses the therapist: “Personally though, I don’t like using civilians in any law enforcement capacity. Dilutes the gene pool, if you know what I mean.”

Local cop replies, “You and I are on the same page there, Agent Alcott.”

“No need to pucker up just yet, Lieutenant. There’ll be plenty of time for that after this fiasco is contained.”

Rinaldi gets beat up a lot in this book, something a therapist usually tries to stay away from. He also sees an old girlfriend get engaged, and flirts with Lowrey, who flirts back. Should a therapist encourage a romantic relationship with someone whose past has so recently returned to haunt her?

Perhaps in the next book, Mr. Palumbo might consider having Rinaldi go to therapy to sort out his not-always-well-thought-out actions. But when he visits an ex-patient who now runs a riverfront barge turned bar, life in the Steel City admittedly looks pretty good:

“Walked through the rear door onto the outdoor patio where the wooden floor smelled of brine and fish oil. The sun was just going down, its waning rays riding the slow-moving crests of the dark river.”

Ah . . . home.