Click here to read Michael Leonard's take on The Practice of Deceit.
The acclaimed author of Almost, Elizabeth Benedict delivers a compelling psychological thriller with a literary twist in The Practice of Deceit. Eric Lavender is a psychoanalyst in his forties, having never married due to a strong preference for the life of bachelorhood. Things change for Eric when he meets Colleen Golden, a litigation attorney with a young daughter. The two meet by chance (or so Eric believes) at a hotel in California. Eric is in town for his father’s funeral, and Colleen is on vacation with her daughter, Zoe (with the hired help, Graciela, nearby).
Lunch at the hotel the same day, then dinner that evening followed by a tryst embarks a relationship between the two, with eventual marriage not too far after when Colleen becomes pregnant. Colleen has convinced Eric to move away from New York City to Scarsdale, an upperclass suburb where Colleen practices law and owns a mini-mansion. Colleen even goes as far to build an office behind her home for Eric to meet with his patients, who now mainly are rich Scarsdales wives bemoaning marriages, aging, and the sizes of their hips. Colleen’s pregnancy leads to a whirlwind of events that leave Eric slightly bamboozled and his bachelor days over, but he tries to settle into his new life the best that he can.
However, it is not long before Eric finds some things are seriously amiss. He discovers fertility drugs in his wife’s medicine cabinet, which show that she didn’t accidentally get pregnant by Eric within months of their meeting – she planned it. Eric’s sister, Pru, and her partner, Bea, do not care for Colleen, wary of her because she is so hard to get to know. Eric is quick to come to Colleen’s defense, but it seems that his sister and her partner have a point. Colleen keeps her past close to her heart, claiming no contact with her estranged family nor the father of Zoe, whom Colleen says left her during her pregnancy.
One thing is clear: Colleen has a reputation for being a shark of a divorce attorney – and the worlds of Eric and Colleen collide when a conflict develops between two clients, one of Eric’s and one of Colleen’s. Research into ethics issues by Eric determines that he must drop his patient and Colleen must withdraw from her client’s case. Eric is wiling to do so – but Colleen is not. Things quickly spiral out of control, leading to a shocking accusation by Colleen that leaves Eric handcuffed, charged, and sent to jail to await trial.
The story is told from Eric’s perspective while he is sitting in jail, now an alleged felon. Eric does some researching and finds out that Colleen’s story about Zoe’s father is untrue, and that a “divorce manual” for Colleen’s female clients was ghostwritten in an underhanded bartering deal with one of Colleen’s divorce clients. The Practice of Deceit was an enjoyable, easy read, yet I would dub it a psychological thriller with a literary edge.