Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmicker

"Alessandra is dead. Sunday's edition should fly off the newstands, with the photos Giorgio shot, the stuff we discovered in Lombardi's diaries, the interviews we did with the Vatican and the police, the comments we've gathered from the rich and famous throughout Europe." Opening Paragraph.

Synopsis:  Italy 1899: Fiery-tempered, seductive, medim Alessandra Poverelli levitates a table at a Spiritualist séance in Naples. A reporter photographs the miracle, and wealthy, skeptical, Jewish psychiatrist Camillo Lombardi arrives in Naples to investigate. When she materializes the ghost of his dead mother, he risks his reputation and fortune to finance a tour of the Continent, challenging the scientific and academic elite of Europe to test Alessandra’s mysterious powers. She will help him rewrite Science. His fee will help her escape her sadistic husband Pigotti and start a new life in Rome. Newspapers across Europe trumpet her Cinderella story and baffling successes, and the public demands to know – does the “Queen of Spirits” really have supernatural powers? Nigel Huxley is convinced she’s simply another vulgar, Italian trickster. The icy, aristocratic detective for England’s Society for the Investigation of Mediums launches a plot to trap and expose her. Meanwhile, the Vatican is quietly digging up her childhood secrets, desperate to discredit her supernatural powers; her abusive husband Pigotti is coming to kill her; and the tarot cards predict catastrophe. Inspired by the true-life story of controversial Italian medium Eusapia Palladino (1854-1918), The Witch of Napoli masterfully resurrects the bitter,19th-century battle between Science and religion over the possibility of an afterlife, while earning praise from Kirkus Reviews as an "enchanting and graceful narrative that absorbs readers from the first page." 

Review by Mirella Patzer

When Tommaso Labella is given the opportunity to photograph the famous Neopolitan medium, Alessandra Poverelli, he never dreamed his photograph would stir such interest. That is because he snapped it while the table was levitating. Tommaso becomes intrigued and falls for the lovely woman who can raise the dead and who games fame with every passing day. 

The photograph and news of Alessandra's talent soon catches the attention of Camillo Lombardi, a scientist/psychiatrist who studies mediums. He makes Alessandra a rich offer to travel outside of Italy and undergo intensive testing. So Tommaso and Alessandra agree. News of this new medium reaches the ears of Nigel Huxley of England's Society for the Investigation of Mediums and he is bent on proving her false. This sets off an intriguing chain of events. 

The Witch of Napoli is based on the famous Italian medium, Eusapia Palladino. It is a rag to riches story about one woman with a rare talent who struggles to gain credibility in an ever doubtful field filled with numerous fraudsters and charlatans. I thoroughly enjoyed Alessandra who is strong and determined, unafraid to stand up for herself, yet still vulnerable to the tricks of men. 

This was nicely written in an effortless prose that made it easy to follow the story and allow the reader to immerse themselves completely. Michael Schmicker is a talented author and I look forward to reading more of his work. 

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