Inside Job -- Connie Willis
Rob, our narrator, is the editor-in-chief (and owner) of The Jaundiced Eye, a magazine that debunks spiritualist scam-artists:
In the meantime, I had an article on Charles Fred to write for the December issue, a book on intelligent design (the latest ploy for getting creationism into the schools and evolution out) to review, and a past-life chiropractor to go see. He claimed his patients' backaches came from hauling blocks of stone to Stonehenge and/or the Pyramids. (The Pyramids had in fact been a big job, but over the course of three years in business he'd told over two thousand patients they'd gotten their herniated discs at Stonehenge, every single one of them while setting the altar stone in place.)
His too-good-to-be-true-ex-movie-star assistant convinces him to go to a popular medium's reading, even though they usually avoid bothering with channelers. (Unless they go in for special effects (like old-fashioned ectoplasm) or pretend to channel a famous person and get their facts wrong, it's almost impossible to prove that they're faking.)
Everything seems to be in order, as these performances typically go -- the woman is clearly faking, her performance is uninspired and unimaginative, she's a bad actress, even, but she's making money hand over fist anyway -- to a skeptic, Ariaura is obviously faking, but there isn't much to be done about it.
At first, Rob just can't understand why Kildy insisted on this (rather expensive) outing. But then:
"But fear not," Ariaura said, "For a New Age is coming, and age of peace, of spiritual enlightenment, when thou--doing here listening to this confounded claptrap?"
I looked up sharply. Ariaura's voice had changed in midsentence from Isus's booming bass to a gravelly baritone, and her manner had, too. She leaned forward, hands on her knees, scowling at the audience. "It's a lot of infernal gabble," she said belligerently.
Awesome. Awesome awesome awesome. Really, Inside Job is just irresistible -- spiritualism and debunkers, a bit of romance, a whole lot of H. L. Mencken, jabs at intelligent design and DUDE -- Connie Willis is a fantastic storyteller. It's an adorable story and it reminded me, at times, of old noir movies/books. AND it's funny. If you need some sort of fancypants recommendation, it just won a Hugo.
Yesterday, a new Connie Willis fan was born! I got to the library today, zipped to the computer, ordered another one of her books and then ran over to the biography section and grabbed a book about Mencken. I'm going to be a busy lady.