Dream Child by J. J. DiBenedetto continues the story of Dr. Sara Alderson, following on from the second book in the Dream series, Dream Doctor, as she and her husband Brian have become parents to four-year-old daughter Lizzie. Now a first-year resident pediatrician as well as wife and mother, Sara barely has time to dream herself when Lizzie begins to show signs of her mother’s ability to enter the dreams of others. As Sara prepares for two new surprise additions to her family, Lizzie enters the dreams of a new friend: a young boy who just so happens to have a father in Congress, and just so happens to be dreaming about his father’s dealings in a “scary” black van. Now working through the eyes of a little girl, Sara and her friends and family work with Lizzie to unravel their biggest case yet: organized crime, and corruption in the White House.
The third book of the Dream series, it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that the books may become formulaic: Sara’s happy, if beleaguered existence, interrupted by her “talent” to help catch a murderer, if possible before they can succeed. While describing the first two books well, happily, author DiBenedetto takes a new direction in this installment, tackling the more complex crimes of extortion and corruption rather than a straight-forward murder-mystery as seen in previous books. With these raised stakes, and new involvement of her young assistant, it should be noted that if the suspension of disbelief in these previous psychic-detective titles was already hanging, the new jump in complexity might be what snaps you out of the otherwise realistic setting.
Thankfully, the book deals with this potentially silly premise with a level head, and smooths the plot into the believable, more down-to-earth narrative of Sara’s life as circumstances beckon her onto a whole new level of intrigue. Sara deals with her new life with the kind of tired, yet upbeat humor any doctor or parent knows comes naturally with those stresses, and Lizzie’s amusing, often silly antics are heartwarmingly realistic, their significance translated to the reader through Sara’s recognizable motherly instincts and understanding, patient nature. Living and working alongside the other varied, distinctive cast of her life, the book feels distinctly personal and intimately emotional when the looming plot finally creeps uninvited into their lives through Lizzie’s dreams.
While the plot has a habit of occasionally skipping to conclusions, it does so in the name of maintaining reader interest, and overall the book is very well-paced and edited as you sink into the seat of Sara. Once again, DiBenedetto captures a complex range of emotions and distills them into a fantastic read, and another thrilling ride that takes unpredictable and exhilarating turns when you least expect it. If you haven’t read the previous books, DiBenedetto makes sure that the necessary details are present in this easily stand-alone title, as was done in book two, Dream Doctor. However, fair warning, if you enjoy Dream Child, you’re likely to be hooked onto the rest of the series and its extremely smooth readability, blending a sense of fun with danger and responsibility.
The Dream series is currently going on nine titles, with the next installment Dream Family already available, and the latest, Fever Dream, available soon.