The Fregoli Delusion.
Michael J. McCann
The Plaid Raccoon Press
9780987708748 (trade paperback)
$3.99 (e-book); $16.99 (trade paperback)
The Fregoli Delusion provides another Donaghue and Stainer crime novel and is recommended for both prior fans of the dynamic duo and newcomers who need no prior introduction to the other three stories to appreciate the scenarios here.
A billionaire is shot to death in a public park and the only eyewitness appears to have been in the perfect place for observing everything. There's only one problem: he appears to be psychotic, and his testimony won't hold up in court or help the investigation.
Or will it?
Lieutenant Hank Donaghue and Detective Karen Stainer find their usual routines disrupted as their focus becomes a probe not of the usual underworld, but the top levels of society where a killer apparently lies in wait: possibly in plain sight.
As for the eyewitness: is he really delusional, or is his perspective more valid than any other eyewitness's could be?
The Fregoli Delusion is all about delusion, reality, and a very real syndrome that affects a crime investigation and teaches the two investigators a thing or two about psychology: ""Fregoli syndrome is actually quite rare," Caldwell said. "It's a form of delusional misidentification syndrome, or DMS, where the patient believes they're being persecuted by someone who disguises himself as other people. It's named after Leopoldo Fregoli, an Italian actor who was famous a hundred years ago for being a quick change artist.""
It's actually based on a real (albeit rare) condition that has been referred to as the 'delusion of doubles', and is an intriguing reality that author Michael J. McCann deftly uses to his advantage to create a further twist on the traditional crime story.
The first thing to note: characterization is not just solid, it's actually compelling. Michael J. McCann's ability to make this a stand -alone novel that ties in well with the past but doesn't keep newcomers guessing for a moment is just one strength in a story packed with insights on psychological motivations, interpersonal relationships, and meaning.
After all - it's meaning and connection that drive any good mystery and keep readers involved in the overall 'whodunnit'; and in this The Fregoli Delusion excels.
Psychological insights drive a hard-hitting story line filled with satisfying twists based on an evolving reader understanding of not just criminal motivation, but the emotions of investigators trained to narrow their focus to the smallest details: ""Some of it involves what Freud called isolation of affect," he said. "A defense mechanism where you respond to unpleasantness or horror by putting your emotions in a box and cutting them off from the rest of your thought processes. I do that. Every cop does, if they want to survive. Compartmentalize your emotional responses to the things you see and keep the lid on very tightly." ... "The problems come, though, when you do that for too long and you lose touch with your emotions altogether." He watched the ship inch down the river. "You lose all your highs and lows, and end up in the middle where there's little or no emotion at all. Or, just as bad, you have inappropriate emotional responses to normal things.""
It's all about interpersonal interactions: as The Fregoli Delusion evolves, so does reader knowledge about the approaches (and ultimate costs) of crime detective work.
The result is an intriguing story line that rides waves of deception to a triumphant, unpredictable conclusion. In the end everyone is educated not only about the Fregoli syndrome, but the ultimate emotional effects of murder on all involved.
Wrap insight in a cloak of relentless action and intrigue and you have a hard-driving story perfect for crime novel readers looking for something with a little more depth and meat to its plot.