Inside Job was another novella I picked up from the Subterranean Press Humble Bundle (Like Amityville Horrible), and it deals with spiritualists and spiritualism, but that’s about it for what the two books have in common.
Which is a good thing, since this novella was one of the reasons I bought the Bundle in the first place. I’ve been a fan of Willis since I read To Say Nothing of the Dog, which was dense but worth it. Inside Job is less dense but still worth it for Willis fans and, I think, for those curious about her writing style.
The novella tells the story of Rob, a skeptic running a debunking journal, and Kildy, a too-good-to-be-true actress who has quit acting to come work for him. Her publicist puts them on the case of Ariaura, channeller of the great spirit ‘Isus’. Normally, Rob doesn’t bother with channellers because there’s no good way to solidly disprove their connection to the spirit world. But Kildy insists, and right from the get-go things don’t go quite the way Rob expects.
Willis’ deft touch with words is in play here, as well as her attention to the nuances of speech and how it varies both from person to person and from era to era. Each chapter begins with an appropriate quotation from either H.L. Mencken or Inherit the Wind, and there is a question raised about “The Baby in the Icebox” — a short story I had not heard of and that I am now going to have to see if I can find a copy of because now that I know how the baby got there I still have a lot of questions.
The book is sort of a mystery and sort of urban fantasy and sort of romance (but not really). Rob is skeptical and occasionally blind to what’s right in front of him; Kildy is too good to be true, Ariaura is ridiculous, and the way Willis resolves the central question of the story — Is Ariaura actually channeling the spirit world? — is brilliant. Imperfect people fighting their own flaws in the imperfect fight for Truth, at least.
Though I think, in this case, Justice does follow.
(Also–this marks the quarter-cannonball I signed up for, but I think I’m now going to chase down the half, if I can. Reading books won’t be a problem — writing the reviews will!)