Hits & Mrs. is Karen Stollznow's foray into the world of fiction. She is an accomplished writer with several non-fiction books under her belt, as well as being co-host of the Monster Talk podcast and a researcher of all kinds of extra-normal goings on.
CW: rape and sexual assault
Hits & Mrs. is the story of Claudia Cox and Gil Godsend. Claudia is a skeptic, trying to expose Gil for the charlatan he is. Gil is a self-professed psychic, trying to continue his past filled with deception. Or is he, could he possibly, be psychic? Is there a chance that Claudia is wrong about his actions?
Claudia has spent several years putting Gil out of her life and her mind. But once she thinks she's clear of him, several of his clients come to her with disturbingly familiar stories. Stories of Gil sexually assaulting them after one of his "personal reading" sessions. This inspires Claudia to open herself up to investigating Gill again. Hopefully for the last time. But each time she thinks she's caught Gil, something goes awry. Is he just that good at predicting her actions based on past experience, or is there something more devious at play?
Dr. Stollznow has brought the worlds of psychics and skeptics together in a way that I've never read before. She uses her vast knowledge as an investigator to expose most of the tricks that psychics use to dupe people, in an informative and entertaining way. Bringing Banachek (also known as Steve Shaw in the real world) into the book as Claudia's mentor is a brilliant move. It allows the reader to get more insight into psychics and how they operate, and also makes good use of his past work as a psychic to expose those very same tricks that he used to dupe people.
There are a few issues, there are characters that slut-shame sex workers a few times, there are several rapes, and the backgrounds given for both Gil and Banachek are rather long. But the backgrounds do work in the story, so it's not a terrible issue. And the rapes are well handled, there is no victim shaming from Claudia. There is a scene later in the book that sadly plays out like most rape cases, with the victim being blamed and the accusation being dismissed as "he said, she said". Sadly, this is a glaring example of rape culture, and of the dismissal of any claims women make about assaults against them by men in positions of power. (Not an attack on Dr. Stollznow's book or writing, just a sad observation on the state of women in our world.)
There were some plot swishes that I didn't really see coming, some choices that Claudia made that I didn't expect. They added some extra interest into the end of the book, and the final reveal was completely unexpected.
I highly enjoyed the book, and am already passing it to several friends who I know will find it enjoyable as well. It's a fairly solid introduction to the skeptical movement, and the exposition of psychics as con artists. I think people interested in the skeptical movement will enjoy it, and people who are interested in psychics may find that it changes their opinion. Especially once they learn the tricks of the trade.