Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little (3 out of 5)


I thought I had this summer’s “Gone Girl” in my hands, if the reviews on that book cover were any indication. Until halfway through it, I still believed. Then I stopped believing. There were a number of occurrences in the book that defied logic, and I quickly figured out who I thought did it. Unfortunately, as is true in real life, I was right, and we all know that’s never good. I really did enjoy this book, but the eventual set of circumstances that turned me off the book, and then the big reveal, really sucker punched it for me. I felt cheated.

Let me tell you that Janie Jenkins (great name, by the name) is one of my favorite female characters in a long, long time. What a smartass. And a funny one, to boot. You don’t get those often in suspense thrillers or regular fiction either. She really made the book awesome in so many ways. At the start of the book, Janie has just been released after an investigation into the police department that was in charge of putting her away reveals evidence tampering (basically, she gets out on a technicality). What did Janie do that she had served ten years? Murdered her famous socialite mother Marion Elsinger. You aren’t quite sure what to believe, because there are parts where Janie speaks of her mother with such dislike, that the reader has to wonder if she did indeed do the deed. Then there are parts where you see she’s trying to retrace her mother’s secretive past to get to the bottom of who may have done it. I asked myself at least five different times if she did do it. Janie’s let out, but she’s never safe. Reading about how the press in the book, not to mention “fans of the case” (ala Nancy Grace, that overzealous weirdo crime fanatic) on her after her release, reminded me a lot of what I’ve read Casey Anthony’s gone through since she skated out on something she obviously did. I wonder if that was the author’s intention. If so, well done. Janie kind of reminded me of what I thought Casey Anthony was like, as a normal person, before the insanity set in. Anyway, Janie flees, with the long-distance help of her lawyer Noah, to a secretive, trapped in a time warp, South Dakota town, where she believes she is safe. She’s also uncovered a ton of her family’s secrets, and met a good portion of the family. Some of those mysteries lie at the feet of Janie’s father, a man her mother never identified, and all that Janie has figured out from her mom’s coded diary is that the man’s name with a “J”. Of course, the men in this town have a plethora of “J” names, so Janie has to painstakingly dig through the past and figure it out. Getting the answers is the only way she’ll figure out what happened and who killed her mom. She’s also battling time, because the journalist Trace is out on a witch hunt for her, determined to deliver “justice” for her dead mother. Trace, may I add, also bears resemblance to Nancy Grace, with a different gender code. Does Janie figure it out? Does Trace get his hands on her? Will the journalist researching the town, with whom she strikes up an uneasy friendship based on investigating the shadiness of the town, help her figure it out in time? What happened? So many questions, and when the answers are delivered, well, not what you thought. Even the reasons for killing the mother- well, just seemed flimsy to me. But again, in the words of the infamous Gordon Gecko, greed is good.

Overall, a great debut novel. A good pace, although I felt it bogged down at the mid, where she’s working her way through the residents of the small town, in an attempt to rebuild her mother’s secret past, and maybe get answers. I got more questions and mild annoyance than answers. Except, obviously, I figured out who did it, and that was a major disappointment. Overall, not too bad as a debut suspense. And Janie Jenkins is fucking hilarious as a narrator. On those merits alone, totally worth the read.

~ by generationgbooks on August 28, 2014.

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