Pittsburgh psychologist Dr. Daniel Rinaldi’s fifth case is all about him, and in all the worst ways.
After surviving an attack by her drunken live-in, Eddie Burke, just long enough to assure Sgt. Harry Polk that no, despite what she’d told Eddie, she wasn’t really having an affair with her neighbor, the psychologist who’s become notorious all over town for consulting with the police in lurid cases (Phantom Limb, 2014, etc.), Joy Steadman gets raped and strangled in her own bed. Does Polk think Rinaldi is the killer? Not really. Even if he did, Rinaldi would have bigger problems to worry about. Retired FBI profiler Lyle Barnes and current FBI agent Gloria Reese are convinced that Joy was murdered by Sebastian Maddox, whose first victim, 11 years ago, was Rinaldi’s wife, Barbara, who’d turned a cold shoulder on the erotomaniac Maddox when he was her student at Pitt. Maddox has been cooling his heels in stir ever since on unrelated drug charges. But now that he’s come roaring back, as he immediately informs Rinaldi himself, he’s determined to ruin the life of the man who stole the woman who should have been his. Wasting no time, Maddox begins executing people Rinaldi knows, alternating between teasing him about who his next victim might be and choosing victims whose identities Rinaldi couldn’t possibly foresee. Nor can Rinaldi turn to his frenemy Polk and the rest of the Pittsburgh PD for help, since Maddox threatens to start killing random victims if Rinaldi departs from his instructions to keep quiet and watch the murders himself—first on video, then up close and personal. His only possible allies are Barnes and Reese, who’ve been in on Maddox’s secret since the beginning. Or does their closeness to Rinaldi just make them more likely victims themselves?
Palumbo, who specializes in thrills as ruthless and baroque as they are preposterous and one-dimensional, outdoes himself in making life so harrowing for his series hero that he’s sure to need some extra time with his own therapist.