cover image The Dark Side of the Sky

The Dark Side of the Sky

Francesco Dimitri. Titan, $16.95 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-80336-278-6

The hard-hitting and violent latest from Dimitri (Never the Wind) explores shattered beliefs and broken bonds within an unusual spiritual retreat. A small group of guests spend four days at a grand villa on Italy’s Adriatic Coast every June, where they drink, smoke, whisper their most painful secrets into bonfires, and dance naked in the rain. When, one year, some guests don’t return home, families and friends suspect they’ve joined a cult run by the retreat’s charismatic organizers, siblings Rebecca and Riccardo Abbracciavento. The Abbracciaventos promise followers an escape from grief and oppression, offering spiritual lessons that often entail sacrifices (including that of the villa’s pet pig, Napoleon, who gets turned into prosciutto). As the acolytes have spiritual awakenings and out-of-body experiences, they notice journalists showing up at the villa gates and drones flying above. Social media erupts with footage of their orgies and “satanic” rituals. As outside pressure mounts—exacerbated by trespassers and ex-lovers—conflict erupts within the villa and mob violence ensues outside. Dimitri juxtaposes the damning documentation of the cult with narration from those inside the community to create tantalizing tension. Bringing this to earth are lovely descriptions of summer nights and sumptuous food details that will make readers’ mouths water even as their heads are spinning. Blurring the line between fantasy and fanaticism, this is a story to be savored. (May)