The Grift, Debra Ginsberg, Shaye Areheart Books, 2008, 335 pp
I really liked Debra Ginsberg's first novel, Blind Submission, which is set in the book publishing world. In The Grift, she enters the fortune telling trade. You know: palm readings, tarot cards, psychic counselors, etc. in contemporary times.
Marina Marks, raised by a single mom strung out on drugs, was pushed into the psychic business by that very mother at a young age. It was a way to keep money coming in. By the time she is an adult and her mother has died, giving readings is the only skill Marina has. Though she does not believe in psychic abilities and knows full well it is a scam, she is good at what she does due to excellent powers of observation and an active imagination.
Since she is basically running a highly lucrative grift and because her clients have serious life issues, there is bound to be trouble. Marina's past comes back to haunt her, her present goes up in flames (literally), and her future looks grim. Just to complicate matters, she suddenly truly does have psychic powers. And yes, there is a lover involved.
The whole imaginative set-up is highly entertaining. While Ginsberg's writing and plotting are a bit shaky, she made me read as fast as I could to find out what was going to happen. She has a gimlet eye for the odd characters that make up daily life, especially in California, where both books are set.
I used to read every Judith Krantz and Jackie Collins (who by the way has a new one called Poor Little Bitch Girl) as they came out. Like those exciting reads, Ginsberg's books are a little trashy, somewhat improbable but they have strong female leads who do not trod the beaten path.
(The Grift is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)