Raves for Sedge’s New Book, The Oracle, from US REVIEW

The Oracle by Michael H Sedge

reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott


"She could only recall the eerie sensations she felt in the cave of the Sybil and the echoing words... The soul cannot die. It will survive forever."

American Jack Jeffrey, his wife Valerie and daughter Becky travel to Italy to visit Jack's sister-in-law, some years after the tragic and purportedly accidental deaths of Jack's brother and young niece. They bring their own private sorrows: Becky is suffering the effects of an earlier trauma, the vacation an attempt to shake her out of her self-protective imaginary world.

Sister-in-law Jennifer is also battling personal demons; early on, we learn that she attacked her husband and daughter in a drunken rage. She manages to put on a welcoming face for the three visitors, but before long they notice a strange atmosphere in the sunny seaside villa, including a foul odor that grows worse with each passing day. Valerie feels trapped by an evil presence when she ventures into the villa's dank cellar. Becky has disturbing paranormal visions. Meanwhile, Jennifer is becoming increasingly edgy; something seething in the fetid basement impels her to secretly purchase a revolver, she babbles about killing someone or something. When the perplexed Jack encounters a group of American scuba divers hunting for antique relics, he begins to piece together the macabre mystery of the villa, with its ancient link to an undead oracle.

Author/journalist Michael H Sedge is very well placed to compose this harrowing yarn based on ancient Greco-Roman lore about the wisdom and fearsome power of the legendary Sybil. An American citizen living in Italy, Sedge has recently written an award-winning nonfiction book, The Lost Ships of Pisa, about the archeological recovery of Italian maritime relics. It's clear that he is at home with both the setting of this book and many of its more arcane details.

Though most of his published works have been factual (i.e. Among other distinctions, he has been a military correspondent for Newsweek and The Associated Press.), Sedge's fiction writing passes muster. His plot is sufficiently mysterious, and his characters credible. In The Oracle, his prose attains a certain gory glory when describing the putrid thing that haunts the villa: "It hovered over her, its split tongue hanging out, drooling smelly spit... deep giggles belched from its gullet." However the book includes a full-chapter account of the family's overseas flight that slows down the book just at the point when it should be ramping up; and the reader anticipates, but never is given, any resolution to Becky's psychological problem that provided the original reason for the Italian excursion.

The Oracle features two vulnerable young girls, a distraught but sexy wife, a scheming madwoman, an exotic setting, a creepy cave, a lurking monster, and a well-meaning male trying to figure out what's going on in the haunted villa. Add all that up and you have the potential for a cinematic scream-fest. Since Sedge is also an entrepreneur and has been called a "wizard of marketing" with much practical advice for his fellow professionals (i.e. His books on publishing include Marketing Strategies for Writers and Successful Syndication.) he may well transform The Oracle from a book that appeal to fans of horror with a classic overlay, to a feature film or made-for-TV movie.