The protagonist in Parker's 13th novel has synesthesia, a condition that is believed to effect about 1 in every 200 people with a bias towards left-handed women.
Synesthesia comes from the two Greek words syn (together) and aisthesis (perception) - therefore synesthesia literally means "joined perception".
A synesthete experiences one sense with another. For example, on hearing a particular piece of music he/she might taste a particular flavor.
The most common form of synesthesia appears to be when someone sees a letter, number or word as a particular color - for example a synesthete might see the word car as sky blue and the number 5 as light green. Almost any combination of the senses is possible - there are synesthetes who experience sound in response to smell, others who experience smell in response to touch, and occasional incidents where three or more senses are involved.
As I understand it, the synesthete experiences these cross-sensory perceptions in a very real sense - they are not 'in the mind's eye' but experienced physically and consistently (e.g. hearing a particular piece of music would trigger a particular taste every time).
I could not find any instances where a synesthete experienced exactly what Robbie Brownlaw does in The Fallen (he sees colored shapes 'falling out' of the person's mouth indicating their emotions) but it would seem that such a visual experience is pretty close to that of seeing auras around people - which some scientists now believe could be a form of synesthesia.
The American Synesthesia Association
Coming Soon: Parker's 14th novel: Storm Runners. Publishers Weekly opines that the plotting is clunky but concludes that "the insights into La Eme and the science of rainmaking as well as the inevitable confrontation between the two principals show why Parker ranks as one of the top contemporary suspense writers."
This article was originally published in March 2006, and has been updated for the
January 2007 paperback release.
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