Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Witch of Napoli: A Psychic Medium's Successes and Failures

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Please join Michael Schmicker as he tours the blogosphere with HF Virtual Book Tours for The Witch of Napoli, from February 16-March 20.

Publication Date: January 15, 2015
Palladino Books
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Genre: Historical Fantasy 

02_The Witch of Napoli CoverItaly 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.

While I was rooting for Alessandra to convince the academics that she was genuine, she did do something foolish at one point that disappointed me very much.  She had a choice and she made the wrong one.   I wish she hadn’t done it.  I respected her less afterward. 

Alessandra made an unethical choice because her emotions were out of control.  It has long been demonstrated that paranormal gifts aren’t 100% reliable.  Most scientists seem to think that this means they are completely invalid and don’t really exist.  Yet no non-paranormal gift is 100% reliable.  For example, a gifted author can experience writer’s block when he or she isn’t emotionally ready to write.  Does this mean that there is no such thing as a gift for writing?  Humans aren’t machines.   We all have good days and bad days, but science makes no allowances for psychics.  Alessandra was being held to a standard that was too rigid for any human being.  The Witch of Napoli demonstrates how and why genuinely gifted mediums can fail. 

Yet when Alessandra was successful in her work, I very much enjoyed reading about her.  I looked forward to finding out what she would do or say next.  Her unconventionality and unruly tongue made her a charming and unpredictable character.  In an author’s note, Michael Schmicker tells us that Alessandra was based on a real medium named Eusapia Palladino.  If the real woman was anything like Alessandra, I’d be very interested in finding out more about her.  Schmicker provides a bibliography that allows readers to pursue that interest.

I did have a problem with the fact that Alessandra was regularly possessed by a spirit entity who was supposed to be Girolamo Savonarola, a fanatical 15th century preacher.  He was an ascetic who was best known for his opposition to the arts and all luxuries.  Based on what I know about him, Savonarola would have despised Alessandra.  I can’t imagine that his spirit would have chosen her as his mouthpiece.   While the spirit knew historical facts about Savonarola, his actions didn’t convince me of  his authenticity.  Why would he be so invested in proving that Alessandra was a real medium?  Wouldn’t he be delivering thunderous sermons as he did in his lifetime?

Despite this flaw, I did like The Witch of Napoli and look forward to future paranormal fiction by Michael Schmicker.  I'd like to thank Net Galley for giving me access to this book in return for this honest review.

About the Author03_Michael Schmicker Author

Michael Schmicker is an investigative journalist and nationally-known writer on the paranormal. He’s been a featured guest on national broadcast radio talk shows, including twice on Coast to Coast AM (560 stations in North America, with 3 million weekly listeners). He also shares his investigations through popular paranormal webcasts including Skeptiko, hosted by Alex Tsakiris; Speaking of Strange with Joshua Warren; the X-Zone, with Rob McConnell (Canada); and he even spent an hour chatting with spoon-bending celebrity Uri Geller on his program Parascience and Beyond (England). He is the co-author of The Gift, ESP: The Extraordinary Experiences of Ordinary People (St. Martin’s Press). The Witch of Napoli is his debut novel. Michael began his writing career as a crime reporter for a suburban Dow-Jones newspaper in Connecticut, and worked as a freelance reporter in Southeast Asia for three years. He has also worked as a stringer for Forbes magazine, and Op-Ed contributor to The Wall Street Journal Asia. 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.

Connect with Michael Schmicker on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

The Witch of Napoli Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 16
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, February 17
Review at Book Babe

Wednesday, February 18

Thursday, February 19
Review & Giveaway at A Dream Within a Dream
Interview at Books and Benches

Saturday, February 21
Spotlight at Flashlight Commentary

Sunday, February 22

Monday, February 23
Review & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation
Interview at Boom Baby Reviews

Tuesday, February 24
Guest Post & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews

Wednesday, February 25
Review at Book Nerd

Friday, February 27
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books

Monday, March 2
Review at A Book Drunkard

Tuesday, March 3
Review at Unshelfish

Wednesday, March 4
Review at Carpe Librum

Thursday, March 5
Interview at Carpe Librum

Monday, March 9

Tuesday, March 10

Wednesday, March 11
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book

Thursday, March 12

Tuesday, March 17

Wednesday, March 18

Thursday, March 19

Friday, March 20
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee


  1. There seems to be a lot of interest out there for this one. The Edwardian psychic fad is not often written about and will be a nice change when I get to this one.