Claire works as a psychic, but only her boyfriend, Cal, knows that she’s a fraud. Rena’s four year-old daughter, Stephanie, is deathly ill, unable to keep food down. The two women have a chance meeting on an airplane that will change both their lives and save Stephanie’s.
The Perfect Fraud is Ellen LaCorte’s debut novel and my guess is she’s not going back to work in humans resources, her previous career, any time soon. LaCorte has created complex characters and makes us care about them. Psychics always invite fascination and, yes, skepticism. When Claire confesses that she makes up most of what she tells clients while reading tarot cards, we’re not surprised. But we also understand Claire’s struggle to live up to the reputation of her mother, a well known psychic. Guilt causes her to keep Cal at a distance, living with him, but refusing his marriage proposal. On her daily run with Cal, she keeps dodging her mother’s calls. Finally answering, she learns her father has had another stroke. She boards a plane from Phoenix to Philadelphia, refusing Cal’s offer to come with her. Dealing with the tragedy together brings the two women closer, although Claire doesn’t tell her mother she’s a fraud.
Rena has been taking Stephanie from one doctor to another, never finding one who can diagnose Stephanie’s illness. At wit’s end, she find a doctor in Arizona who specializes in gastro intestinal problems in children. She and Stephanie are on the plane when Claire takes a seat next to them. Still trying to process her father’s death, Claire is in no mood to engage with Rena. But she’s taken with the little girl who is small for her age and seems frightened. When Rena asks what she does for a living, Claire admits she’s s psychic and hoping to end the conversation, gives Rena her contact number. Getting off the plane, Claire rushes to the bathroom, her mouth constantly filling with salty water, which she keeps spitting into the sink.
Losing her father makes Claire realize how much she loves and needs Cal. Returning to see clients at Mystical Haven, Claire is no longer a fraud – she’s the real thing. Did her father’s death ignite her abilities? She’s not sure, but now the visions come so fast and are so powerful, that she’s overwhelmed. Soon clients are lining up for her readings.
Meanwhile, Rena, set up with Stephanie in a rundown apartment, takes a part time job at a pharmacy. She meets and begins dating a pharmaceutical salesman, Louis, leaving Stephanie with her landlady. Appointments with the Phoenix doctor are no more promising. No one can figure out why Stephanie is so sick.
The narrative alternates between Claire and Rena, who tells some of her story through a mommy blog she keeps detailing her struggles with Stephanie. Each entry prompts opinions from her readers, some helpful, others laughable. It will take Claire to figure out what is happening with the little girl. But can those answers come fast enough to save Stephanie?
The Perfect Fraud
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