book review: Dear Daughter

dear daughter

Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little. Publisher: Viking. Mystery/Thriller. Hardcover. 364 pages.

“Fortunately, I had some experience with this particular species. For the first fifteen years of my life I had been shuffled from tutor to tutor, learning all the things my mother thought ladies (or bastard children of petty nobility) should know—which as far as I can tell were gleaned directly from an Edith Wharton novel. I studied etiquette, music, antique furniture, napkin folding. I can spot a fake Picasso at a thousand paces; I dance the gavotte; I’m adept with a lemon fork, a butter pick, and a piccalilli spoon.”

When we meet Janie Jenkins she’s just out of prison after serving a decade for matricide. Did she do it? Apparently teenage Janie created quite the name for herself in Los Angeles where she moved with her mother after living in Switzerland. One of those famous for no real reason but being pretty and partying– celebrities like Nicole Ritchie [okay famous dad] or the Kardashians. Now she’s on the run from the paparazzi and determined to find out who killed her mom. She and her mom were not even close. She often vehemently disliked her mother. They disagreed on everything and constantly fought. Janie was not daughter-of-the-year framed for murder. It seems she could have killed her high-society wealthy mother.

“Any similarities between me and my mother had always been conspicuously absent. I’m blowsy blond, fox-faced, built like a ballerina but lacking the grace. My mother, on the other hand, looked like Marilyn Monroe—but carried herself like Grace Kelly. I wasn’t just the apple that had fallen far from the tree. I was the apple that had been eaten up by worms, too.”

A smart debut from Harvard graduate Elizabeth Little. The story’s told from Janie’s perspective. She may have once been the carefree party girl but now she’s battling for her reputation and a chance to redefine herself. Janie is cynical and savvy. In prison she spent tons of time in the library researching connections to her mother and the murder. She found a promising lead and heads to an isolated town in South Dakota to probe the details. There she meets a bizarre cast of characters. Little writes with dark humor and intrigue. She includes flashbacks to the murder and Janie’s life before prison interspersed with text messages between Janie and her lawyer as well as news from various gossip sites. Lots of twists. Salacious and intriguing details on both Janie and her mom and their damaged, treacherous relationship. The ending is a bit far-fetched for my liking but Dear Daughter is a solid thriller which grabs your attention from page one. Definitely one to pick up for a weekend or getaway read.

RATING: ****/5

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Viking.

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