Join Dr. Carlos as he chats with a possible psychopath. Is author James Fallon a law-abiding research scientist and family man or a dangerous psychopath? In this memoir-meets-pop-sci examination of psychopathy, Fallon discovers, to his initial surprise, that he has brain functions similar to a cohort of hardened criminals. The book takes chapter-length looks at the neurological features, possible genetic and epigenetic causes, and developmental triggers of psychopathy, with detours through Fallon’s personal and familial history. Unfortunately, Fallon’s memoir of realizations is emotionally flat (which is perhaps unfair criteria to judge a psychopath by), lazily assembled, and amounts to little more than a confessional booth’s enumeration of sins. He cheats with his kids at Scrabble, parties too hard, alienates his co-workers, and takes his brother to an Ebola-infested cave and considers using him as lion bait. These vices, Fallon is happy to tell you, provide him a great deal of malevolent glee, though there is little pleasure for readers to bask in—Fallon’s narration is too sterile and, ironically, too self-serving to ever entice the reader. For a quick overview of current theories of brain science and mental illness, Fallon’s book is useful; for insight into foreign mental and emotional territories.
James Fallon is an award-winning neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine, where he has taught neuroscience to medical students, graduate students, and clinicians in psychiatry and neurology for thirty-five years. His start-up company, NeuroRepair, was voted top new biotech firm of the year by a national association of its peers and has engineered major breakthroughs in stem-cell research.