Middle-aged psychic Epiphany Mayall thinks she is traveling home to Ohio to convince her 91-year-old mother Susan to move to Florida to live with her. Instead, she gets caught up in a deadly conspiracy that threatens the very Earth we all live on.

Epiphany’s Gift by Mallory M. O’Connor is somewhat hard to classify, but I’ll try. It’s a paranormal cli-fi novel takes on climate change via conspiracy theories and mixes in a generous helping of mystery and detective work. But even that doesn’t quite capture it.

Epiphany (variously called Pip or Fanny) came into her psychic powers at an early age and eventually went to live at a spiritualist commune in Florida as an adult. She has visions that come true, speaks to ghosts, sees auras, and can even remotely view people, places and objects.

One of Blake’s illustrations of the pool of boiling pitch in Cantos XXI-XXII of Dante Alighieri’s Inferno. Credits: William Blake, The Devils, with Dante and Virgil by the Side of the Pool, 1824–7, Photo © Tate, CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported).

Once in Ohio, she begins to have visions and dreams of a black pond like a tar pit. Soon after, her college professor John Bernhardt seeks her out, telling her that an unfinished drawing by poet and artist William Blake, illustrating Dante’s Inferno, has been stolen. The drawing resembles the pond in her dream.  He asks her to use her psychic abilities to help find the priceless work of art, believing it has something to do with something even more nefarious going on — literally underground.

This request, which soon turns out to be his last, catapults her into a world she never suspected existed. A high-stakes petroleum company, Ace Energy, is fracking in the area and injecting wastewater into the ground, causing ever-worsening earthquakes, killing plants and wildlife, contaminating surface and groundwater, and causing a real-life version of the black pond from Epiphany’s dream and Blake’s drawing.  The drawing illustrates one of the pits in the Eighth Circle of Hell, where the corrupt are thrown into a pool of pitch.

O’Connor does a good job of weaving in the reality of the horrors of fracking into Epiphany’s adventures without seeming overly preachy or political, as Epiphany uncovers more and more corruption and digs deeper into what seems at first glance to be an absurd level of conspiracy theory. 

A CONSPIRACY THAT RUNS DEEP INTO HISTORY

She is helped along the way by an imaginative cast of characters, including different vintages of ghosts and a former FBI agent, as well as Blake King, who named himself after the poet Blake and only speaks in metaphors and poetry. Throughout her investigation, she meets people associated with Ace Energy who seem entirely evil and almost proud of it.

Epiphany learns about an extremely rare and top-secret “HAG” (heart attack gun), confronts levels of government cover-ups, and is plagued by arson and earthquakes as she works her powers to locate the missing drawing. She even tries going undercover as an art dealer after sniffing out the drawing’s location with remote viewing.  

Eventually, Epiphany traces the roots of the conspiracy to 12th-century Italy and right back to Dante again — and forward to the Illuminati in a head-spinning bit of detective work as she continues to search for the missing work of art and realizes that the fight she’s found herself in the middle of is actually much, much bigger.

This is a truly unique novel that blends and bends genres while offering a twisty thriller plotline. An amalgamation of art history, climate science, parapsychology, conspiracies and murder, once you open Epiphany’s Gift you’ll find it hard to close until the very last page.

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Mallory O’Connor is a writer, an art historian, and a musician. She is the author of two nonfiction books, Lost Cities of the Ancient Southeast and Florida’s American Heritage River, both published by the University Press of Florida. She is also the author of two fiction series — the American River Trilogy and the Epiphany Mayall series, of which Epiphany’s Gift is the first book.