“I stepped forward and pushed open the front door—which promptly fell off its hinges. I caught it just as it hit the floor, the crack of wood on wood echoing through the hall. I went still and silent and waited. For the sound of footsteps. For the sound of voices. But, thank god, no one came.
I replaced the door as best I could and peered around. Your standard foyer, with two large rooms on either side. I had stirred up dust with my graceless entry and for a brief moment the sun refracted through motes so profuse the air glittered like a fairy glen. But then the dust settled, and the room took on the hue of the water at the bottom of a tub after you plunge up a muck of soap-scummed hair."
Jane Jenkins is the star of Dear Daughter, and we meet her moments after she’s released from prison on a legal technicality, having been convicted for the murder of her manipulative socialite mother. Instead of trying to return to her old life in L.A., dating actors and starving for fame, Jane dons a disguise and flees across the country to look for the truth about the night of the killing, a night she can’t recall well enough to know if she committed the crime or not. Her pursuit takes her to a tiny, stagnant town in the Midwest, the kind of place that carefully keeps its secrets.
Elizabeth Little’s first novel stars a complex protagonist with a voice and personality that really shine. Every page drips with Jane’s bitterness and sharp humor; Little pries deep into Jane's psyche, uncovering damages from a decade in prison and a lifetime as a scapegoat for her apparently flawless mother. The descriptions genuinely feel like Jane’s own words so readers get to see the people and places in the book through the unique lens of someone who is both a released convict and a former Hollywood darling.
A solid mystery, the book holds a handful of surprises although only one or two feel really meaningful. All in all, it was entertaining with a pace that picked up in the second half, and a book where I'll probably remember the protagonist more than I'll remember the story.
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