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Connie Willis
Inside Job
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2005

Subterranean Press
US Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 1-596-06024-7
Publication Date: 08-30-2005
99 Pages; $35
Date Reviewed: 10-23-05

Index: Mystery  General Fiction  Horror

Happily, this review is not as cruel as I might first have thought it would be. I know that the first and only edition of 'Inside Job' sold out quickly, and given that, I was a bit hesitant to parade my enjoyment of Willis' charming, thought-provoking comedy. But a quick examination reveals that there are copies to be had, and the price is not too dear. Now, great reading is worth just about any price you have to pay. 'Inside Job' may require a bit of book-sleuthing on your part to find it, but it will be well worth the trouble. This is one of those one-size-fits-all works, with elements to turn just about any reader into a believer. Well, in the talent of Connie Willis at least.

Belief and lack thereof are the axes around which 'Inside Job' revolves. Rob is the editor of debunker's journal, Jaundiced Eye. Kildy is his model-gorgeous, rich-girl-on-a-quest employee. The machinations of 'Inside Job' begin to unfold when Kildy insists that Rob see a second rate channeler who calls herself Ariaura. Seemingly off her act, Ariaura is experiencing problems. In the midst of a fairly smooth shtick, she's dissing herself and channeling in general. But what Kildy has detected suggests something unexpected. Kildy unearths solid evidence that Ariaura is channeling none other than H. L. Mencken. Who is conning who -- or is everything exactly as it seems? Is a second rate psychic channeling the worlds most entertaining skeptic?

With only 99 pages to let this scenario play out, Willis offers a story that is full to the brim with wit, charm, and a romantic angle that will win over even the hardest skeptics. She's given herself an edge by making her subject H. L. Mencken. The man's work still seems stunningly relevant, and his wit is timeless. In fact, perhaps the greatest accomplishment here is that of Willis herself channeling Mencken. But she adds a lovely, enchanting angle featuring a protagonist who is clueless as to his own needs and a mystery that will keep the reader turning the pages as fast as possible.

Willis is a superb mystery writer. She knows precisely how long to let the reader dangle, just when to let go and when to offer up another clue. Readers will find 'Inside Job' a wonderfully satisfying puzzler. At the precise moments when you, the reader are thinking, "It must be..." Willis will have her characters uttering your words as they form in your head. Of course this whole timing issue is as much down to her skills as a comedian. Both genres require delicacy and balance. Willis hits the bull's eye every time.

The only timing issue readers will experience is trying to get the book. Sure there are copies out there now. And to be sure, the J. K. Potter cover is a to-die-for affair. But, as indicated in the book, you can let something linger for too long. You can wait for the right moment and watch it pass. Don’t wait too long to snap up your copy of 'Inside Job'. But take your time reading it; these are moments that can't last long enough.

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