Saturday, August 2, 2014

Book Review: "Dear Daughter" by Elizabeth Little

"Dear Daughter" is Elizabeth Little's debut novel and it captures you from the first page. We start out right away learning that Jane Jenkins was accused and convicted of her mother's brutal murder ten years ago. Two interesting twists happen right away. One, Janie doesn't remember if she actually did kill her mother, she has little to no memory of that horrible night. Two, her conviction is overturned when the lab that did the DNA testing is found to have mishandled evidence. Sharp, vivid writing flows from Elizabeth Little's pen. She shapes a multidimensional, emotionally fragile yet contradictorily tough as nails character in Jane Jenkins.

Jane, or Janie as the paparazzi like to call her, was at the height of her celebutaunt fame when her very wealthy mother was murdered. Jane's notoriety made her fodder for every scandalous rag and ambulance chasing lawyer throughout the trial. When her conviction is over turned and Janie is released there is a rabid hunt to find out where she is and what she'd doing now. Jane becomes unsafe wherever she goes. 

The main character is crafted beautifully by Elizabeth Little. Jane is intelligent, sly, manipulative, beautiful and condescending. But strangely, as the book continues, you begin to like her. The reader is drawn into the mystery of who Jane really is and who really murdered her mother. As Jane follows the tiniest clues to find answers and tries to winnow out the truth from people who want to keep their secrets, we find ourselves rooting for the underdog, Jane. She may have a sharp tongue and a smart mouth but as you learn of her upbringing you, find yourself unsurprised at her behavior. 

I found myself mesmerized by this novel. For me, it was like a palate cleansing between courses in an expensive meal. I usually read a certain kind of mystery, the grizzly P.I., the frustrated yet tenacious cop, the befuddled but determined amateur sleuth. This mystery was nothing like that. The author's writing style is so wonderfully digestible. The character Jane Jenkins is fully explored and beautifully robust. It was a singular pleasure to read such a well wrought  mystery with unexpected twists and turns, fully developed side characters and enough red herrings thrown in to keep even the most sophisticated mystery reader on their toes. This book was a five out of five for me, in fact, especially since it's Elizabeth Little's first novel, I think it deserves more than the maximum stars, it deserves a whole constellation.


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