Spoiler alert: There’s no psychic maiden in THE PSYCHIC MAIDEN by Jideofor Nwokedi. There’s a crafty con artist named Chi who preys off the spiritual weakness of wealthy church elite. She has a few prophetic dreams, but they could just as easily be her subconscious telling her what she already knows: ease up on the drugs and alcohol and ditch her manipulative co-scammer boyfriend, Dede. The story opens like a thousand other modern thrillers — Chi wakes with amnesia and must uncover her mysterious past. Evidently she was kidnapped by Nigerian terrorists, Boko Haram. Chi’s escape from this terrorist group would make an exciting tale, but instead Nwokedi gives her an easy out — “nice” terrorist Timi takes her under his wing and sets her up as a sham psychic.
Chi is more Whoopi Goldberg in (the movie) Ghost than Patricia Arquette in (the tv show) Medium. She lands a job as a “church psychic” where she gets access to wealthy people with spiritual troubles. She’s able to dupe and fleece her way through several “filthy rich elites” before a Senator with an agenda threatens to shut her down. At its best, THE PSYCHIC MAIDEN reads like a fairly entertaining episode of (the tv shows) Orphan Black, The Mentalist, or even Ed Wood’s 1959 cult creature-feature, Night Of The Ghouls. The fake psychic is a fun trope, but Nwokedi stifles the inherent humor by saddling Chi with emotional problems and a borderline drug addiction. Her unknown past haunts her. Nwokedi does a good job building suspense, holding Chi’s secret back until the story’s final pages. What if Dede is actually a demon who coerced Chi into a life of violence and vengeance?
Despite a compelling premise, THE PSYCHIC MAIDEN stumbles on a number of fronts. Nwokedi does a lot more showing than telling, and the telling itself is rather sloppy. Besides typos and spelling errors, malapropisms abound. Characters have “rib-roaring sex” (which sounds painful), “blow off candles,” and spend blissful moments “in cloud nine”. The sex scenes read like PornHub descriptions, yet manage to be both tactless and dull. He uses big words and complex sentences when simple ones would suffice.
The power of THE PSYCHIC MAIDEN lies in its subtext–the almost casual description of Nigeria’s legacy of corruption and superstition, a place where abhorrent practices like female circumcision still exist. The horror of this story has nothing to do with psychic talents or demon possession, but the real-world human atrocities that still happen every day.
~Rob Errera for IndieReader