Title: The Witch of Napoli
Author: Michael Schmicker
First published January 2, 2015
294 pages, Kindle Edition
In 1899 Naples, Alessandra Poverelli shocks a room full of Spiritualist believers by levitating a table. When skeptical Jewish psychiatrist Camillo Lombardi sees a photograph of the event, he travels to Naples to investigate.
Alessandra materializes the ghost of Camillo’s dead mother, and he becomes determined to finance a tour of Europe to prove her powers to the scientific and academic community. The tour becomes a sensation, with newspapers across Europe telling Alessandra’s Cinderella story and her baffling successes.
However, not everyone is convinced. Nigel Huxley, an aristocratic detective for England’s Society for the Investigation of Mediums, launches a plot to expose her as a vulgar, Italian trickster.
Meanwhile, the Vatican is digging up Alessandra’s childhood secrets, and her abusive husband Pigotti is coming to kill her. The Witch of Napoli is a thrilling historical novel inspired by the true-life story of controversial Italian medium Eusapia Palladino.
Michael Schmicker’s debut novel, The Witch of Napoli, is a historical fiction that takes readers on a mesmerizing journey into the world of sances, mediums, and witches. Set in the late 19th century Naples, the novel tells the story of Alessandra Poverelli, a gifted medium who can communicate with the dead, channel their voices and even levitate objects.
This thrilling novel is impeccably researched, with vivid descriptions of the era and the complex workings of Spiritualism. Schmicker’s prose is engaging, and he manages to keep the reader spellbound through elaborate flashbacks that provide insights into the life and background of his fascinating protagonist.
The themes of science versus spirituality, skepticism versus faith, and the boundaries of knowledge and ignorance are interwoven throughout the novel with masterful skill. The book’s unique blend of history and fiction provides a vivid and compelling portrait of the society, with vivid portrayals of Naples as a hotbed of superstition and occult practices.
The Witch of Napoli is a compelling narrative, filled with unexpected twists and turns that will leave readers on the edge of their seats until the very last page. The pacing is spot-on, building towards a climactic finish that will leave readers wholly satisfied.
The characterization of the protagonist, Alessandra, is particularly skillful, with Schmicker crafting a complex and fully realized character who is at once vulnerable, troubled, and fiercely independent. One of the strengths of the book lies in Schmicker’s ability to evoke the era convincingly, with meticulous attention to detail that brings the story to life.
The historical context of the novel is seamlessly interwoven with the plot, adding richness and depth to the narrative. The novel’s themes of love, loss, and redemption are explored with an uncommon depth, making the book both suspenseful and thought-provoking.
Despite its many strengths, The Witch of Napoli has a few minor flaws. Some plot elements could have been developed further, and there were moments when the pace lagged.
However, these are minor quibbles in an otherwise excellent novel. Overall, The Witch of Napoli is a fascinating, engaging book that will appeal to a broad range of readers.
Fans of historical fiction, as well as those interested in the supernatural, will find much to savor here. Schmicker’s attention to detail, well-drawn characters, and darkly atmospheric setting make this a standout debut novel.
I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for great storytelling, rich characterization, and an engrossing plot. Rating: 4.5/5