Star Rating: ****
First Published by Harvill Secker in 2014
Pages: 358 (Paperback edition)
The Story-Line of ‘Dear Daughter’
We all forget, it’s in our nature but imagine forgetting something important. Something like whether you have killed someone. This is exactly what happened to Jane Jenkins. To make matters worse the person she has been accused of killing is her own mother.
Their relationship was a rocky one; Jane went against her mother’s wishes on most occasions. Her father, a supposed Swiss Aristocrat, was older and therefore died some time ago, leaving just the two of them to work it out together.
Jane’s mother, Marion Elsinger, had been determined to succeed no matter what and had become very well-known in the right circles. They wanted for nothing. Perhaps that was part of the problem; Jane never had to struggle in life, she therefore had plenty of time to rebel against her mother. She mentioned to others that she hated her mother, that she wished she was dead but that doesn’t necessarily mean she did it – does it?
Her biggest problem is that she blacked-out and has a gap where her memory should be. All she can remember is seeing her mother lying on the floor, covered in blood after being shot at close range, with her bloody name written on the floor beside her. She knew she had an evil streak, but she is unsure whether she is that evil.
At the trial the jury took no time at all to agree on a decision, Jane was guilty. The evidence was overwhelming.
“The only fingerprints in my mother’s room: mine. The only DNA under my mother’s nails: mine.
The only name written in blood next to my mother’s body: definitely mine.” (Page 4)
No-one was prepared to say that Jane did not do it.
Fast Forward Ten Years…
‘“Jane Jenkins, sentenced to life in prison ten years ago for the murder of her mother, was released six weeks ago today, when a judge overturned her conviction and eight others as a result of the on-going investigation into the deliberate mishandling of evidence by the LAPD crime lab technicians…”’ (Page 10)
The issue she now faces – it doesn’t mean she didn’t kill her mother, it just means that officials can no longer say categorically that she killed her mother. If only she could remember what happened that evening.
She remembers going out, against her mother’s wishes. she had gone to a party that she didn’t really enjoy but wanted to annoy the host and had walked out with a lad on her arm which, evidently was not the one that she ended up sleeping with that night. So why then did she blackout the most important part of the evening, the part where she supposedly killed Marion? Has she forced herself to forget because she did do the heinous crime?
Her one glimmer of hope, the heated discussion she’d overheard her mother having with a male earlier in the evening whilst she was hiding out in her closest. She has no idea who the man was but she is determined to find out. She had only caught fragments of their conversation but it was enough to know that something was not right. Two words from that evening stuck in her mind ‘Tessa’ and ‘Adeline’. Jane has no idea what they meant or whether they were significant but during her time in prison she has spent hours thinking about it. Having researched Adeline extensively, she discovered that there was a small gold-mining community of the same name; this was to be her starting point. If it came to nothing then she would go back to assuming that she had in fact killed her mother, but until then she could not rest.
Landing in Adeline
As far as small communities go this one tops the charts. If it had not been festival weekend Jane would have looked completely out of place wandering the streets. As it happens though, she has changed her appearance to avoid detection and was now acting as a historian called Rebecca researching the magical gold-rush era.
Within hours of arriving she is sat around a dinner table eating with some of the founding families of the town – the Percy’s and the Kanty’s. Rebecca prays that ‘Tessa’ will turn up for dinner; just to make things slightly easier for her. Unfortunately her luck doesn’t stretch that far and she walks away none the wiser, beginning to think it is all a wild goose-chase.
Over the following days, she seeks out further information from the locals, especially Renee and Kelley who she met at dinner on her first evening. To begin with no-one is forthcoming with any information, only alluding to what was already present in the history books, it is only after a visit to the neighbouring town of Ardelle and the discovery of Tessa that people began to share tit-bits of information with her.
Through all of this though there is an ever-looming threat. Some people are upset that she has been released and are searching for her. One in particular, a Crime Blogger by the name of Trace Kessler, seems to really dislike her and has offered a reward to anyone that can track her down. Time is not on her side. Will she find her answers before they find her?
Every crime novel has a twist or two but in ‘Dear Daughter’ they keep coming. Just when you think you have the answers and know what is going to happen next a curve ball is thrown in. This is a novel that will intrigue you. You will want to keep reading to find out what happens next. Nothing is as it seems and the more you find out the more confused you will become for a while.
Whilst not a one-sitting read this is a book you will struggle to put down.
For all crime novel enthusiasts out there Elizabeth Little’s book is well worth adding to your ‘To Be Read’ pile.