An ancient manuscript seems to predict the future—including the dangerous journey set in motion by the woman who discovers it.
Semele Cavnow works for a prestigious New York auction house. When she's called to Switzerland after the death of a famous manuscript collector, she makes an amazing discovery in his library: a manuscript dating back to the time of Cleopatra, written by the daughter of a librarian at the great Library of Alexandria. Even more amazing—the script’s writer is an oracle, able to trace her progeny’s stories forward in time from ancient Egypt through World War II. As the oracle traces her line, and reveals the history of an ancient set of symbols that eventually come to comprise the modern tarot deck, Semele’s professional interest is piqued. When the manuscript suddenly addresses Semele by name, she becomes obsessed with discovering the connections between the manuscript’s fortunetellers and her own life. As Semele learns more about the tumultuous histories of the oracle’s descendants, she also learns that the people she thought she could trust are not what they seem. Womack (The Memory Painter, 2015) alternates back and forth between a whirlwind history that spans thousands of years and the suspense of Semele’s search—but without one constant character threading the historical narrative, those sections can leave readers itching to get back to the contemporary mystery, which unfolds at a thriller’s pace. However, Semele herself can be a vague protagonist. Her characterization frequently feels haphazard and belated—for the first 150 pages, we know little about her personality other than that she favors vintage clothing that’s “elegant yet comfortable”—but the book ultimately pleases based on clever details and a galloping plot.
A well-worn template with entertaining embellishments.