Conditional Love - A Story of Battered Emotions
​Michael J. Canzoniero Ph.D.

Homicide detective William Hael Jr. is stuck—both in life and in his current case. The son of an alcoholic father, Hael still suffers the emotional wounds and can’t seem to break free from the family role that helped him survive. As he struggles to solve the confusing murder of a young woman, he’s disturbed by the reappearance of the invisible friend who once helped him through his toughest times…Babe Ruth.

As the baseball legend advises Hael on the case, he also reveals the untold truth about his own harsh childhood and asks the detective to publicize his real story in an effort to help others like them. But sometimes the freedom that answers bring is more frightening than being trapped by confusion, and Hael must decide whether to live in the pain of the past or risk stepping into the future.

Conditional Love is both a fascinating fictional primer on family systems therapy and a thrilling psychological murder mystery that offers an intriguing revision of Babe Ruth’s history and challenges a man’s ability to change his role in life.
From Kirkus Reviews:

A young woman’s mysterious murder forces a troubled detective to come to terms with his past.

No one can figure out who killed Greta Broz. She was discovered dead in her Long Island apartment from a gunshot wound. The problem? There’s no bullet to be found. That’s not the only confounding thing about the young Hungarian immigrant’s death that Detective William Hael discovers as he investigates the crime. The victim was mild-mannered and had no enemies. But as Hael digs deeper, disturbing truths about Greta’s past surface. Her father was an alcoholic imprisoned for murder, and her uncle sexually abused her. Hael’s own father was an abusive alcoholic and the case stirs up unpleasant memories and emotions, which express themselves in a series of dreams starring baseball legend Babe Ruth. Then Greta starts appearing with Ruth in the dreams…The Great Bambino seems to be trying to tell the detective something important, but Hael may not get the message before the killer strikes again. This debut novel is half hard-boiled mystery, half psychological study of the lasting damage and pain caused by abusive, addicted parents. That’s not surprising given that the author is a licensed psychologist who has worked with those affected by drug and alcohol abuse, and he draws on his professional knowledge to explain how children of alcoholics learn to cope…The detective’s obsession with Ruth and the related dreams are an inventive way to explore the character’s psyche…The book’s core mystery is clever and engaging, complete with effective red herrings, colorful cops, reliably sketchy informants, and dynamic action sequences.

A deft thriller with an important message about the lasting damage of alcohol abuse.


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In Strictest Confidence
​Michael J. Canzoniero Ph.D.

Kirkus Review:
A Long Island, New York–based homicide detective searches for a killer who may be his therapist friend’s patient in Canzoniero’s (Conditional Love, 2015) thriller.
In 1991, DS William Hael’s newest case promises to be grueling: retired teacher Armand Esposito’s mutilated body is found nailed to a wall, akin to a crucifixion. Hael has been tormented since the deaths of his wife, Kathy, and 8-year-old son, Billy, in an accident; he feels that he could have been a better husband and father. He’d previously seen psychologist Dr. Michael Franz for help in raising Billy, who displayed symptoms of ADHD. As it happens, Franz may also have the key to solving the Esposito murder. Three people have been occupying the doctor’s mind lately: emotionally disturbed former patient David Ulster and current patients Jack Rose, a psychopath, and Dolores Witowski, who suffers from multiple-personality disorder. One of them is connected to the recent killing, but although Franz can describe the patient’s demeanor and history to Hael, he can’t divulge his or her name. The detective finds that he can relate, in one way, to the three suspects; like him, they endured childhoods with abusive, alcoholic fathers. But as he investigates, it turns out that time is not on his side: the killer has targeted Franz, and Hael himself could be next.
Canzoniero dives deep into what goes into the psychological makeup of a murderer, and his characters are suitably complex. Their environments often symbolize their internal agonies; David’s family home, for example, has
“multi-colored floral wallpaper” that’s badly peeling. The story is a whodunit, with some parts following the unnamed killer’s actions. Most readers will likely guess the culprit. Nevertheless, the author effectively augments the mystery by having Hael link Esposito’s murder to a similar death two years earlier—and a second murder in the present day.
A sufficient mystery that’s amplified by richly developed characters.

In Strictest Confidence blends a thriller with the psychological study of abused children. In this taut detective tale, the backstories of the suspects and the revelation of Hael’s own difficult childhood elucidate the horrors of child abuse. This novel examines the evolution of emotional disorders in adults who were abused children. Importantly, it discloses how attempts to handle those disorders can lead to constructive resolution or to self-destruction.
This psychological thriller brings to mind David Pelzer’s A Child Called "It", extending that narrative by showing abused children as adults with deeply disturbing emotional disorders. While all the characters in this story are fictitious, it is a sad truth that abused children grow into adulthood with a greater likelihood of having mental health disorders. They are more apt to become alcoholics and drug addicts, more at risk for intimate partner violence, and, because they are frequently depressed, more disposed to make suicide attempts. All these issues are seen in the characters who enliven this drama.
After reading In Strictest Confidence one may find him- or herself sharing the author’s quandary: should being able to understand why someone acts in evil ways make their actions excusable? The author has counseled many abused children. Some of them had horrific things done to them and they, in turn, did despicable things to others. However, he also has seen many abused children who survived their victimization and have gone on to live decent adult lives. On the one hand, he feels a deep sympathy for all those who have been abused and he wants to exonerate them for their sins.  On the other hand, as a student of moral philosophy, he has never forgotten Erich Fromm’s opinion that the application of psychological analysis to behavior - the forming of a psychiatric diagnosis – should not stop us from making a moral judgment about an individual and his - or her actions.
Dr. Canzoniero’s epigraph reminds the reader that there are “both evil and benign sane men, and evil madmen and benign madmen”.  What will you think of the killer?


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Astro Projecting with Charlie Novella
​Michael J. Canzoniero Ph.D.

(Due December 2017)

Astro Projecting with Charlie Novella, is the story of eleven-year-old Charlie’s search for and rescue of his kidnapped asthmatic younger sister, Scoochie. It is a story that blends imaginative fantasy with a bit of spun-down psychological counseling.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Charlie’s father is an undercover FBI agent who is about to testify against the former Brooklyn gang he infiltrated. To keep him from testifying Scoochie is kidnapped and held as collateral. Charlie, his father, and his mother, Gina, must all go into hiding. For his safety, Charlie is separated from his parents and sent to live with his father’s cousin, Flo, a detective on Long island.

The Greek god, Hermes, Zeus’ messenger between our world and the heavens, has seen all this and decides to help. He gives Charlie the opportunity to learn how to astro project himself to wherever he wants to go. Charlie learns how to do it watching Flo unwittingly demonstrate it to his coworkers. One of the coworkers describes astro projecting as the ability to separate our consciousness from our physical body and then letting it travel anywhere in the universe.

Charlie, while determined to find and rescue Scoochie, realizes he can’t do it alone; he needs friends. In order to make friends in his new school, he tells a story to his classmates about astro projecting to be with his parents and going on a terrifying car ride chased by the mob. Most of the class thinks it’s outrageous, but one child, Ella, thinks he’s cool.

While being held hostage by the two fat Ganootz brothers, spunky little Scoochie captures the heart of the dimwitted brother, Vinny. This leads to him promising her he won’t let her be hurt.

Ella becomes Charlie’s friend. While she says she just wants to be his best friend, it becomes obvious she wants to be his girlfriend. Charlie teaches Ella to astro project and they “fly” in a glider together, fulfilling orphaned Ella’s fondest wish. Eventually, Ella gets her two friends, Declan, a dyslexic, and Ronan, depressed over his parents’ recent separation, to join Charlie in his plan to rescue Scoochie by astro projection.

Telling his new friends that he is sure the kidnappers will need to go to a drugstore to get Scoochie’s medicine refilled, Charlie explains how they’ll rescue her from there. They ride their bikes to the drugstore, astro project themselves inside the store, and wait for the kidnappers to show up. The little rescuers are unaware that Cosmo and Gina are also headed to the drugstore to stop the kidnappers. So is cousin Flo, his partner, and four police cars.

The kidnappers see everyone converging in the drugstore parking lot and speed away to a little airport. They’re followed by the kids, the parents, and the cops. At the airport there is a showdown and the kidnappers foil Charlie’s first attempt to get his sister. But Charlie cleverly gets the brothers to believe that he can teach them how to astro project to see their deceased mother and they fall for it. The brothers get covered by a “magical” tarpaulin and before Frankie can make off with Scoochie, Vinny takes on his brother and saves her. He holds Frankie until the police cuff them both and cart them off to jail.

In the end, everything is explained at a conference at Flo’s house where all have gathered to hear the truth of the events.

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