The Fortune Teller

Written by Gwendolyn Womack
Review by Elisabeth Lenckos

This time-traveling novel rests on an intriguing premise. An ancient Egyptian manuscript, which tells the story of a missing deck of tarot cards, addresses its modern translator by name, drawing her into the mystery of their disappearance. Its author, Ionna Callas, is a seer in the reign of Queen Cleopatra who witnesses the destruction of the great library at Alexandria, while the translator, Semele Cavnow, is alive in the 21st century and employed by a Manhattan auction house. The house’s director has sent Semele to the Swiss chateau of a client, Theo Bressard, in order to catalogue the collection of artifacts he has inherited from his father, Marcel; here, she discovers, in a secret cabinet, a parchment entitled My Chronicles through Time and finds that Marcel has posthumously willed it to her. But things go wrong the moment Semele begins deciphering the work; someone is intent on uncovering the secret obscured in Ionna’s ancient memoir—which, fittingly, is also a prophecy—and will stop at nothing to get it, placing Semele’s life in danger.

The strands of the women’s narratives are interwoven until they unite in the book’s finale. The mystery portion of The Fortune Teller story proceeds at a goodly pace, but unfortunately, Semele is not as well depicted as Ionna, a sympathetic protagonist placed in a rich, atmospheric setting. By contrast, Semele, her contemporaries, and their surroundings never rise above the familiar, romance stereotypes.