The Horror Honeys: Haunted Bookclub ~ Dear Daughter

Haunted Bookclub ~ Dear Daughter

A Book of the Week Review by Jocelyn

Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little 

Look, I know we all loved “Gone Girl”, and I did too – but much like the “I heard of this band first” annoying friend, I am inordinately fond of telling people about Gillian Flynn’s earlier two books, “Dark Places” and “Sharp Objects” and how amazing they are and were long before “Gone Girl”.  Elizabeth Little’s book “Dear Daughter” reminded me a lot of “Sharp Objects”, which is the greatest compliment I can give it.  An unreliable and razor-tongued narrator, a small town with secrets, intertwined family histories, and mother issues abound.

Janie Jenkins is a former California “It Girl” (think Paris Hilton, but no sex tape for our Janie!) who has just been released from prison after serving ten years for the murder of her mother, noted Swiss socialite and philanthropist  Marion Elsinger.  It seems the crime lab may have been a little loosey-goosey with the evidence and a whole slew of convictions get tossed out, setting Janie and many others free.  Everybody still thinks Janie is guilty, of course, and even Janie is none too sure about the events of the night in question.  Did she kill her mother?  Some facts are irrefutable – her name was written in blood next to her mother, seeming to pinpoint her as the killer.  Then there is the matter of her wishing, aloud, that her mother was dead, in front of several witnesses.  

When Janie is released from prison, she quickly takes on a new identity, the mousy Rebecca Parker, and heads for the town of Ardelle and its sister town Adeline, near Mount Rushmore in what was at one time, Gold Rush country.  Adeline, you see, is one of the last words Janie remembers hearing on the night her mother died, and she is determined to get to the bottom of it.  She arrives in Ardelle as their annual historical event is taking a place, a week filled with tours, lunches, dances and the like, hosted primarily by the indomitable Cora Kanty, proprietress of the inn where “Rebecca” finds herself staying.  In short order, Janie meets Cora’s husband Eli, her rebellious teenage daughter Rue (who reminds Janie of herself back when she used hair product and wasn’t on the run from TMZ and vengeful Bill O’Reilly blogger types), along with local hottie cop Leo, his sister Kelley, and his ex-wife Renee.  Also in play is the wealthy Percy family, with patriarch Stanton and fuck-up middle-aged son Mitch, a gone-to-seed high school jock who seems to still like his girls young.  

Janie quickly begins untangling the threads of a complicated town backstory that, of course, involves her mother, who isn’t quite what she appeared to be.  Although there are some stunning coincidences and implausibility, you should suspend your disbelief and read this fun mystery – because a narrator like Janie Jenkins doesn’t come along every day, and frankly she was a blast.  Some of the reviews I read point out that Janie is not especially likable – so what?  If you’re looking for someone to take you on a wild ride and make you laugh with her snarky just-below-the-surface pain, you could do a lot worse than Janie.  I have found myself reading a lot of books lately that would make fun movies, and “Dear Daughter” is no exception.  I will definitely be looking forward to Little’s next book with great anticipation.

Four out of five mistrials for this one!