04 March 2015

Review of The Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmicker

02_The Witch of Napoli Cover
* Copy courtesy of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours *

Italy 1899: Fiery-tempered, erotic medium 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. 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. 

Praised by Kirkus Reviews as an “enchanting and graceful narrative” that absorbs readers from the very first page, The Witch of Napoli masterfully resurrects the bitter 19th century battle between science and religion over the possibility of an afterlife.

My Review
The character of Alessandra Poverelli in The Witch of Napoli is based on the real life of Italian spiritualist medium Eusapia Palladino (1854-1918), giving an extra dimension to this historical fantasy novel by Michael Schmicker.

The skepticism of the time and the battle between science and spirituality dominate the story and Allessandra and her young male companion Tomaso are likeable characters.

I was very interested in the physical toll the readings had on Alessandra and the identity (and meaning behind) one of the spirits Alessandra conjures, and would have liked to have explored this further. Instead the plot focussed on the 'burden of proof' Alessandra carried and the many scientists and spiritualists demanding her time to prove their own theories on the matter.

While the life and times of Eusapia Palladino no doubt make for a fascinating biography, I wasn't as captured by The Witch of Napoli as much as I hoped to be, and would have liked to find out more about her abilities and what she made of them. (By the way, for those seeking to read about witches, there is no witch in The Witch of Napoli, and the novel could just as easily have been called the Medium of Napoli).

Having said all of that, the most exciting part of participating in this tour (hosted by HFVBT) and reading and reviewing The Witch of Napoli, is the opportunity I have to interview the author Michael Schmicker. Michael Schmicker is a paranormal investigative journalist with tonnes of experience in the field, and the interview is well worth the read!

My rating = ***

Interview with author Michael Schmicker
I'll be interviewing Michael Schmicker here on Carpe Librum tomorrow, so stay tuned!

About the Author
03_Michael Schmicker Author
Author Michael Schmicker
Michael Schmicker is the co-author of The Gift, ESP: The Extraordinary Experiences of Ordinary People (St. Martin's Press) and The Witch of Napoli is his debut novel. 
Michael is an investigative journalist and nationally-known writer on the paranormal. He's been a featured guest on national broadcast radio talk shows and also shares his investigations through popular paranormal webcasts.
Michael began his writing career as a crime reporter for a suburban Dow-Jones newspaper in Connecticut, and worked as a freelance reporter in SE Asia for 3 years.
His interest in investigating the paranormal began as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand where he first encountered a non-Western culture which readily accepts the reality of ghosts and spirits, reincarnation, psychics, mediums, divination and other persistently reported phenomena unexplainable by current science. He lives and writes in Honolulu, Hawaii, on a mountaintop overlooking Waikiki and Diamond Head. 

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