I made a great discovery last week. I couldn’t sleep much over a three-day period, and during my restless nights I picked up Lee Goldberg’s Diagnosis Murder: The Waking Nightmare. It was in a stack of books—my to-be-read pile—in my office, and each evening I read eighty or so pages before I could finally retire into the bliss of slumber. In short, I enjoyed The Waking Nightmare a whole lot. It kept my own waking nightmare—insomnia—from driving me absolutely mad. Heck, I even looked forward to reading it each night.
In The Waking Nightmare Dr. Mark Sloan, Chief of Internal Medicine at Community General Hospital, is confronted with three mysteries: 1) how does he keep a cancer patient from slowly killing herself; 2) how does he solve the suicidal problems of a young woman who attempted to jump to her own death, and; 3) who murdered a millionaire skydiver in mid-jump with a knife to his chest, and how was it done. The three mysteries take charge of Dr. Sloan’s life—he can’t sleep (a symptom I was able to relate with), or even live a functional life until he solves each mystery to his satisfaction.
The Waking Nightmare is everything I expect of a tie-in novel. It is familiar—the characters are correct, the setting is perfect and the storyline just right. But instead of a single episode, The Waking Nightmare is more like a Diagnosis Murder mini-series. The story is longer, and the characters are developed and explained much better. Mr. Goldberg also does an admirable job of capturing the always-present humor of the television series, and the comfortable, almost homey, atmosphere. The plotting is wonderful—he twists the plot and sub-plots into an entertaining web that kept me guessing until the final pages.
My only gripe with The Waking Nightmare is that the subplots—at times—overpowered the murder mystery. In fact, when Dr. Sloan solved the mystery of the jumping girl I figured that was it. The book was over, but then in a flash I realized the skydiving murder was not only unsolved, but wasn’t much closer to resolution then it had been at the beginning. Although it could be argued, and quite well, that the jumping girl is the main plot thread. It is certainly the most powerful and interesting of the three.
The Waking Nightmare proves, without a doubt, that Diagnosis Murder isn’t just for the elderly. But rather Lee Goldberg has written a series of novels that can be enjoyed by anyone who wants a fun, light and pleasant mystery. Mr. Goldberg continues to build a world that is both comfortable and invigorating--it is a mix of new and old in both theme and content, and it is very much a place I would like to return.
The Waking Nightmare is the fourth novel in the Diagnosis Murder series written by Lee Goldberg and based on the television series.