Book Review: DEAR DAUGHTER by Elizabeth Little

Publisher: Viking Adult
Released: July 31, 2014
Source: Review copy through Penguin’s First To Read Program
Rating: ★★★★¼

A sensational debut thriller featuring an unforgettable heroine who just might have murdered her mother…

Former “It Girl” Janie Jenkins is sly, stunning, and fresh out of prison. Ten years ago, at the height of her fame, she was incarcerated for the murder of her mother, a high-society beauty known for her good works and rich husbands. Now, released on a technicality, Janie makes herself over and goes undercover, determined to chase down the one lead she has on her mother’s killer. The only problem? Janie doesn’t know if she’s the killer she’s looking for.

Janie makes her way to an isolated South Dakota town whose mysteries rival her own. Enlisting the help of some new friends (and the town’s wary police chief), Janie follows a series of clues—an old photograph, an abandoned house, a forgotten diary—and begins to piece together her mother’s seemingly improbable connection to the town. When new evidence from Janie’s own past surfaces, she’s forced to consider the possibility that she and her mother were more alike than either of them would ever have imagined.

As she digs tantalizingly deeper, and as suspicious locals begin to see through her increasingly fragile facade, Janie discovers that even the sleepiest towns hide sinister secrets—and will stop at nothing to guard them. On the run from the press, the police, and maybe even a murderer, Janie must choose between the anonymity she craves and the truth she so desperately needs.

A gripping, electrifying debut novel with an ingenious and like-it-or-not sexy protagonist, Dear Daughter follows every twist and turn as Janie unravels the mystery of what happened the night her mother died—whatever the cost.

DEAR DAUGHTER is the impressive debut novel by Elizabeth Little that kept me reading way past my bedtime. The protagonist is Jane (Janie) Jenkins, an obnoxious “celebutante” who went to prison at age 16 for murdering her mother. What’s worse for Jane is that she’s not sure if she did it or not, and there’s just one obscure clue from that night that could lead to answers.

When Jane is freed from prison a decade after her conviction on a technicality, she heads to a remote South Dakota town under a new identity in hopes of solving the gruesome mystery. Jane’s character was devious, manipulative, and at times down right awful. She had a sharp, sarcastic wit I couldn’t resist. Likable? No. Reliable? Maybe. Compelling? Yes.

This was the kind of book that I hated to put down. I enjoyed the dark and suspenseful atmosphere the author created. I loved the tension, the fast-paced plot, and the isolated setting – especially the creepy ghost town. My one complaint is that there wasn’t a clear explanation of why Jane couldn’t remember if she was the killer or not. Was it alcohol, or just the trauma of the whole thing? I don’t know.

DEAR DAUGHTER was a great book with an ending I wasn’t expecting. All I could say was, “Ha!” I’m hoping for a sequel.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Penguin’s First To Read Program.