Part way through this baroque nonsense, a character observes: ""It's a damnably complex story. It may be quite impossible to go on with this at all."" But Condon, one of the real impresarios of the impossible, manages even though he defies and almost defeats his reader in vaulting from one situation to another. Any God believes in the ""vision to believe."" Francis Vollmer believes in his nobility; actually he had been taken out of an orphanage and sponsored by a banker with whose suicide the book here opens. Francis subsequently steals $450,000, takes up sexual studies, French and cooking, and with the revelation that he is the child of circus dwarfs, escapes to Europe preceded by his funds and followed by his institutionalization in a clinic. As he should be--he's paranoid and given to violence, when his dream of establishing his rights to a ducal title are threatened. But Sian, a widowed marchioness, understands him, protects him, loves him, almost loses him to her daughter, and then to the reality of his delusion.... Always hectic, sometimes so preposterous that one suspects parody, this surprises, startles and eventually numbs the reader however much he admires the bravoura with which it is performed.