Earlier this year a terrific article by Hollywood screenwriter turned licensed psychotherapist Dennis Palumbo in the Huffington Post sparked one of my longest-ever blog posts, looking at how crime fiction is perhaps one of the very best literary formats for examining society.
You can read Palumbo's article "Through a Glass Darkly: Crime Fiction as a Window on American Culture" here, and my lengthy post, which included some great comments and insights garnered from a variety of authors I'd interviewed in recent times (at the time), here. It's a topic I've returned to in interviews with several authors since, including the likes of James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly, and PD James - it seems to be something that is bubbling away in the minds of many people who write or read crime fiction.
Anyway, Palumbo has now released his own debut crime novel, MIRROR IMAGE, which is touted as the first in a series starring clinical psychologist and former boxer Daniel Rinaldi. After it had sat in my TBR pile for a while (I was distracted by the Ngaio Marsh Award and several books I had to review for various interviews, articles, and other commitments), I started reading it this morning, and immediately kicked myself for not getting around to it sooner. I was hooked within a couple of pages, and I've found myself reading it here and there throughout the day as mini-breaks from work. If it keeps going in this form, then it could very well end up being one of the best debut thrillers/crime novels I've read in the past few years.
The blurb for MIRROR IMAGE says, "Dr. Daniel Rinaldi [is] 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."
Perhaps due to his screenwriting background, I've already found that Palumbo has a terrific touch for pithy yet vivid description, and good, layered characterisation. I'm really looking forward to reading more (in fact I'm picking it up again as soon as I upload this blog post).
You can read my 9mm interview with Dennis Palumbo here.
Have you read MIRROR IMAGE? Do you like the sound of the book? What are some of the best debut crime novels you've read in the past few years? Who are some of the newer, lesser-known authors that you think are 'on the rise'? Thoughts and comments welcome.