Cold reading, the kind done by those claiming to be magicians or spiritualists, is not a nice thing. Basically, through a combination of probable guessing, bullshitting, and expertly reading the reactions of people, they claim to interact with that person’s dead loved ones, and exploit this illusion to make money and become famous. It’s hard to feel sympathetic for someone who makes their living that way.
Which is why Neil Forsyth’s novel Let Them Come Through is such a rarity. Not only is it funny, but he also makes the main character, Nick Santini, a z-list celebrity magician, sympathetic. Santini must deal with his unscrupulous manager, Tony, but also maintain a loveless marriage to an equally low-rent pop star in order to keep up his popularity. Forsyth, a Sharp contributor, has made a striking debut novel, combining the humour of his earlier work with a more cerebral tone.
He was inspired to write the novel after seeing one of these cold readers perform in Edinburgh. Forsyth tried to imagine what could have led a man to do something that he knew was fraudulent, and this book does an excellent job of both giving away the secrets of “magicians” like Santini, and letting us into Santini’s mind. In writing this novel, Neil Forsyth has cold read the cold readers.