Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little

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Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 2/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: A murder mystery that has an intriguing premise but is just a bit too slow in the delivery
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 384 Date: July 2015
Publisher: Vintage
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0099587873

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Janie Jenkins is fresh out of prison, released early when an issue with the evidence is brought to life. Evidence concerning the death of her mother. Who she may or may not have killed. Hmmm.

No one wants to believe they may have killed, especially when they can't be certain and therefore can't take credit for it. The problem is, Janie doesn't know whether or not she was the murderer. No one does. She has gaps in her memory, there are no witnesses, there was some circumstantial evidence and it was enough to see her sentenced, but now things have changed. With the gossip press hot on her heels, Janie has to stay one step ahead of the game if she's going to get to the bottom of what did happen ten years ago.

This book had so much potential. Gone Girl meets Mean Girls the cover screams. Throw in the sun glasses on the cover and the knowledge that Janie and her mother were part of the Hollywood scene, and you have some idea of what to expect. I think the reason I'm disappointed is because that's not the story I ultimately got. It's not set in LA or even on the west coast. Janie sets off to follow some clues across the country, and so I started to expect a trek across various states with a discovery here, and new hint there, but again this isn't what I got because almost all of the story is set in the middle of nowhere in Hicksville USA. No gloss, no glamour, no gossip. Just a rather odd small town with a weird history that is as far removed as possible from where Janie started.

This is a mystery, indeed a murder mystery, with the usual whodunit question. But the suspects are few and far between (and it never ceases to be off that one of them is the narrator herself). I struggled to get my head around the image of Ardelle and found the story took place in a type of America I've never heard of or imagined. The excerpts of court papers, emails, gossip columns are interesting and add extra voices to the text, but I continually struggled to reconcile the image of Janie as a Hollywood It girl with the character shown here. The only reason, in fact, that it mattered who she was, was because there needed to be wider interest in her, which might not have existed were she just another (mother-murdering) nobody on the street.

This is a really slow story. The book is long, the font is tiny, and it just never ends. I plodded to the end through necessity (the only book in my bag on a long train journey) but I would happily have put it down had I had any better alternative. The book plays on the notion of long ago, a 'when I was young…' sort of set up. Janie's mother, you see, is not the person the world thought she was, and I don't think Janie is that thrilled to find this out. If everything about your childhood was a lie, you at least want the reality to be interesting, dangerous, dirty. Anything but what it is, really, which is dull. It was supposed to be a thriller but I found it less than thrilling, and the only real action came in the last chapter by which point I was a little beyond caring.

Disappointing, as I really wanted it to be better, I would none the less like to thank the publishers for sending us a copy.

If you like thrillers with a faster pace, I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh and Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton are both recommended.

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Buy Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little at


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