Book Review: Hypnosis Is for Hacks by Tamara Berry
By Doreen SheridanOctober 22, 2021
Eleanor Wilde, one-time fake medium and now a village witch in the English countryside, is thrilled to be hosting her brother Liam for the summer. What neither of the American siblings had accounted for when planning this visit was the countryside’s dismal heat. When Vivian Hartford, local grand dame and the mother of Eleanor’s wealthy if currently absent boyfriend Nicholas, more or less invites them along on a Brighton holiday, they’re quick to accept. Sensitive to her own past habits, Eleanor is insistent that the Wildes will foot their own bills regardless of Vivian’s generous offers otherwise.
The trio is at first glad to escape to the cooling seaside breezes of the resort town, at least until they run into a certain guest who’s also staying at their posh hotel. Armand Lamont is a mesmerist and mentalist who was previously Eleanor’s mentor and partner-in-crime, teaching her the tricks of the trade as they conned wealthy people out of their money under the guise of, among other things, spiritually cleansing allegedly haunted buildings. When greed got the best of him, a worried Eleanor decided he was going too far and put a semi-permanent stop to his misdeeds. But now, here he is in Brighton, cozying up to Vivian and Liam, and watching Eleanor’s every move.
At first, Eleanor assumes that he’s arrived to enact his revenge on her, primarily by playing pranks like leaving creepy gifts outside the door to the hotel room she shares with her brother:
“What the…?” I bend down and pick up a small porcelain doll that’s sitting outside our door. She’s tiny, no bigger than the palm of my hand, and appears to be of ancient origin. I say this not just because the porcelain is yellowed and cracked, but because I’ve never seen such a terrifying plaything. Modern dolls have big, kewpie eyes and adorably painted bow lips. This monstrosity looks as though she clawed her way out of the depths of a grave, her white dress covered in dirt and her once-blond hair down to a few straggling strands.
He’ll have to try a lot harder than that to scare our intrepid heroine though, especially after she and Liam witness the drowning death of a man at the hand of two shadowy figures that no one else seems to have seen. When other hotel residents begin reporting robberies that also involve the appearance of two shadow figures, Eleanor is intrigued, and not a little suspicious that Armand is somehow involved in this little crime wave. He swears up and down that he would never stoop to anything so blatantly illegal, and Eleanor is inclined to believe him, especially after he accuses her of ingratiating herself with the Hartfords for their money. Armand might be a crook but he’s a clever crook, and theft and murder aren’t his style. No, what he really wants is a cut of her action, as he’s convinced that she’s running a con on her rich boyfriend and his family. How to persuade him that she isn’t, while shielding the Hartfords from the truth of her own checkered past? And how to do all that while helping to solve the case of the murders and robberies plaguing their hotel?
I am such a huge fan of this series and greatly enjoyed how Eleanor’s past, present, and future converged in this delightful fourth installment. Nicholas himself shows up undercover to help her fend off Armand, as well as to help her with the suspicious police detective in charge of the case, who turns out to be none other than the ex-wife of Inspector Peter Piper from their own village. Smart, athletic, and no-nonsense, Inspector Gillian Piper quickly inspires a girl crush on Eleanor’s part:
I can’t identify why I’m so excited at the prospect of Gillian Piper being a woman who inspires awe, but I am. I should be afraid of her–and in some respects, I am–but I mostly want her to consider me an ally worth having.
Nicholas must sense some of this, because he takes both of my hands and squeezes them. “There’s a reason she left Peter the way she did, moving away to take a job in a bigger city, never quite feeling settled in our little village.”
I can understand this perfectly.
It’s always so refreshing to read books that showcase burgeoning female friendship and solidarity even, or perhaps especially, between a former con artist and an ambitious cop. I was also very pleased by the resolution of the storylines with Armand and Nicholas and am very much looking forward to how Eleanor’s relationships with them continue to develop in future books. Definitely pick up this book if you like a little paranormal activity, a lot of wicked wit, and a healthy dose of emotional generosity with your cozy mysteries!