Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little
Pub. Date: July 31, 2014
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Viking!)
Summary: Former “It Girl” Janie Jenkins is acerbic, whip smart, and fresh out of prison. Ten years ago, at their height of her glamour and fame, she was incarcerated for the murder of her mother, a philanthropist best known for her string of rich husbands. Now, released on a technicality, Janie chops off her trademark hair, determined to chase down the one lead she has about her mother’s killer. The only problem? Janie doesn’t know if she’s the one she’s looking for.
In an isolated South Dakota town whose secrets rival Janie’s own, with the unwitting help of the locals, she pieces together a shocking picture of her mother’s supposedly pristine past. On the run from the press, the police, and possibly even a murderer, Janie is forced to choose between the anonymity she craves and the truth she so desperately needs.
Genre: Adult, Mystery, Thriller
Ten years ago, Janie Jenkins had the world in her hands: a fabulously wealthy It Girl famous for being famous, she was dating a British musician, and had just landed her first magazine cover. Unfortunately, her mother ruined it all by dying. Or, rather, by being horrifically murdered – and writing out Janie’s name in her own blood. Those five letters cause Janie to lose it all, she was hauled off to prison (what other reason would her mother have for leaving Janie’s name beside her on the floor?) and now the only letters she received are full of hate.
Due to a technicality, a mix-up in a lab, Janie is released into a world much different than the one she left. Once word gets out, the media launches its own manhunt. Despite there being no evidence, everyone believes Janie to be guilty – even Janie herself isn’t sure whether or not she actually did it. Armed with broken bits of memories, a fake ID (courtesy of her layer, Noah Washington), and a new hair cut, Janie heads for a tiny town in South Dakota in the hopes it will give her the answers she seeks.
Prior to blogging, I lived and breathed Thrillers. Since then, I’ve branched out and discovered truly wonderful authors and genres, but every so often I love revisiting the one that started it all. I had high hopes going into Dear Daughter – especially since TANA FRENCH (!) has a blurb featured on the cover – and I’m thrilled to say the book didn’t disappoint!
Does a main character need to be likable for the book to be a hit? I don’t think so. 27-year-old Janie is a spoiled brat – even after a decade in prison. She grew up in Switzerland and had a rotating stock of tutors, nannies, drivers, stepfathers. From an early age she knew how to get what she wanted and was never very good at taking no for an answer. Jail did nothing to change her attitude. If anything, it made it worse, but there was something about her I couldn’t help but watch. I suppose that’s the case with any young socialite: even if they’re rude, nasty people, they still hold that spark that you can’t look away from. Bravo, Ms. Little.
The media are convinced Janie got away with murder and I was caught up in the action. In between chapters there were transcripts from court documents, trial notes, police reports, and celeb gossip blog posts that I thought were amazing. These gave more insight into Janie’s character, the night her mother died, the media circus trying to tail her (reports of Janie sightings are extremely popular)…I ate it up.
Janie’s arrival in South Dakota (under the guise of a dowdy and frumpy Rachel Parker) reveals far more than she ever bargained for. As she uncovers the history of this tiny mining community, she discovers just who her mother was – and exactly what happened that horrible night ten years ago. As someone well-read in Thrillers, I’d like to think I know the ‘formula’ well enough by now to see what’s coming. I’m pleased to say there were a few reveals that genuinely surprised me and some twists I hadn’t guessed! Marion’s past was fascinating and I loved learning her secrets with Janie.
I feel that romance can never be a total win for me. If there’s romance in a book, it’ll happen to quickly for my liking. If it’s not there at all, I’ll be disappointed. Clearly I just can’t win! Dear Daughter isn’t romance and doesn’t put any focus on love, but I thought something was going to happen with Janie and a character and it never did. Perhaps I was reading into it too much?
Dear Daughter is a stunning debut novel and I’m excited to see where Ms. Little goes from here! It’s extremely readable with a quick pace, intriguing mystery, and characters you’ll love to hate (and I mean that in the best way!). This is certainly one I’ll be recommending and you can bet I’ll be eager to see what Ms. Little does next.
It’s hard enough to maintain your innocence when so many people are so sure you’re not. It’s impossible when you’re not sure of anything at all – other than the awful, inescapable fact that you hadn’t particularly liked your own mother.
If I’d been free to pick any name in the world, I would have gone for something diaphanous and fanciful, like Coralie or Delphine, the kind of name a grande dame gives a petit chien. Because no one – no one – daydreams about pretty names more than girls called Jane. And with good reason, you know? I mean, even our most illustrious Janes are world-class sticks-in-the-mud. Austen, Eyre, Doe? Spinster, sucker, corpse. It’s a monder I managed as well as I did.