In Di Paolo’s debut fantasy, a family secret and a mysterious curse lead a skeptic on a whirlwind journey into Italy to discover the real truth.
Dr. Diana Valleverde is a woman of science, but her deep-seated convictions are about to be challenged. Her brother Marco, a curator at the University of Philadelphia Museum of Archaeology, is working on an exhibit about the long-lost Mi’Ki’Passa Native American tribe, whose surviving members are only now stepping into the public eye. He’s convinced the museum is haunted. Diana doesn’t believe in hauntings, but her mind starts to change when she meets Hannah, a Mi’Ki’Passa med student with unexplainable abilities. When Diana travels to Italy for a conference and brings along a mysterious box that belonged to her late grandmother, all hell breaks loose. She begins having episodes of sleep paralysis involving menacing hallucinations, she discovers that a curse was put on her as a child, and a stranger threatens her brother’s life unless Diana turns over the box. Soon after finding herself back in the Italian village where she was born, she’s surprised to discover that her medical degree may have more to do with all of this than she thought. Although there are a lot of story elements to take in, Di Paolo deftly weaves the various plot threads together, creating an enjoyable, well-crafted mystery that whisks the reader from Philadelphia to Milan to a small village in the Italian mountains, all while exploring both Italian and Native American folklore. The fantasy elements, which are subtly teased out until the end, may occur a bit abruptly for some readers’ tastes—and the idea of magical Native Americans is well-trodden—the journey makes for a fun read. Diana’s a compelling main character who strikes just the right balance between Mulder and Scully.
An imaginative fantasy that has fun weaving together folklore, medicine, and ancient curses, providing a fresh twist on a classic formula.