Review by Adrina Palmer
In this propulsive debut thriller, two women with deep secrets are thrown together by an unexpected meeting that plunges both their lives into chaos. But it’s a sick little girl whose fate hangs in the balance.
I managed to pick up the ending of Ellen LaCorte’s debut novel ‘The Perfect Fraud’ fairly early on but mainly because I am a rather morbid person with morose interests and far too much time to watch strange videos on YouTube. Either way, the knowledge did not hinder the journey but a few areas needed work before publishing.
The story centers on two storylines. First, we meet Claire, a psychic with a secret. While the daughter of a psychic, her own abilities are non-existent. The next family is Rena and her little sickly daughter Stephanie. Rena spends all her time caring for her four-year-old daughter Stephanie who changed from one hospital bed to another with an unnamed illness. With a fake psychic, a worried mother, and a sick preschooler, you would think the plot had enough issues but as often happens in life, a few more problems pop up.
Claire’s boyfriend Cal wants to walk down the aisle yet can’t get a ring on Claire’s finger. Meanwhile, her bedridden father suffers another stroke leaving Claire to cope with her mother who never seems to need her daughter as much as she needs her husband. Rena’s ex-husband only wants the occasional weekend visit with his sick daughter and to stop funding the repeated trips to the hospital.
The encompassing scheme parallels the toxic relationships mothers and daughters often face because of miscommunication. The two sets of relationships are so different and tenuous you spend the whole novel internally yelling for the characters to listen to each other! Though, not a familial bond, the same is true of lovers Claire and Cal. Instead of communicating they slide into complacency. Though, Cal knew his girlfriend is a fraud and doesn’t seem to mind her lies so long as she is honest with him, if not herself.
Rena blogs about the trials of mothering a sick child. Stephanie’s sodium levels keep spiking and the doctors have no clue why. A new doctor in Arizona looks promising to diagnose the child, so Rena packs up and moves on the fly. On the plane – somewhere around halfway through the book – the characters finally meet. The introductions take too long. I would have preferred the two main characters met at the beginning of the book or at least a lot closer to the beginning. Although, the meeting between Claire and Rena isn’t love at first sight as I expected.
After the flight, which Claire takes to attend a funeral, Claire finds her psychic abilities aren’t so fake after all. She can see things now, including a new tragedy about to shake up the lives of the woman and daughter she sat next to on the plane. Will she be able to convince herself and the world she has a gift as a life depends on her second sight?
The story starts off strong and then drizzles down to a diluted mess at the end. I can’t give away too much but realistic details are optional. Character development was strong though, at least for a few of the characters. One character wasn’t meant to grow, and that’s what you may notice fairly early on. If you have a semi-sharp eye, you should spot the premise up front.
The story needs work but only in hiding clues a little deeper and ironing out the wrinkles at the end. Ellen’s writing style pulls you in and forces you on her train track until she is done telling her story. Enjoy the ride and try not to look too far out the window as you may be easily disappointed. ‘The Perfect Fraud’ is a great first novel and shows definite room for improvement with practice in her future books, which I will look forward to reading.
Available in bookstores June 18th