Dear Daughter: A Novel [NOOK Book]


“Quick-witted and fast-paced, this debut mystery should be a ...
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Dear Daughter: A Novel

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“Quick-witted and fast-paced, this debut mystery should be a hit with Gone Girl fans.” People magazine

"This is an all-nighter . . . The best debut mystery I've read in a long time."
—Tana French

“A really gutsy, clever, energetic read, often unexpected, always entertaining. I loved Janie Jenkins’s sassy voice and Elizabeth Little’s too. In the world of crime novels, Dear Daughter is a breath of fresh air.” —Kate Atkinson, New York Times bestselling author of Life After Life

A sensational debut thriller featuring an unforgettable heroine who just might have murdered her mother

Former “It Girl” Janie Jenkins is sly, stunning, and fresh out of prison. Ten years ago, at the height of her fame, she was incarcerated for the murder of her mother, a high-society beauty known for her good works and rich husbands. Now, released on a technicality, Janie makes herself over and goes undercover, determined to chase down the one lead she has on her mother’s killer. The only problem? Janie doesn’t know if she’s the killer she’s looking for.

Janie makes her way to an isolated South Dakota town whose mysteries rival her own. Enlisting the help of some new friends (and the town’s wary police chief), Janie follows a series of clues—an old photograph, an abandoned house, a forgotten diary—and begins to piece together her mother’s seemingly improbable connection to the town. When new evidence from Janie’s own past surfaces, she’s forced to consider the possibility that she and her mother were more alike than either of them would ever have imagined.

As she digs tantalizingly deeper, and as suspicious locals begin to see through her increasingly fragile facade, Janie discovers that even the sleepiest towns hide sinister secrets—and will stop at nothing to guard them. On the run from the press, the police, and maybe even a murderer, Janie must choose between the anonymity she craves and the truth she so desperately needs.

A gripping, electrifying debut novel with an ingenious and like-it-or-not sexy protagonist, Dear Daughter follows every twist and turn as Janie unravels the mystery of what happened the night her mother died—whatever the cost.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
★ 06/15/2014
Janie Jenkins was a rich pain in the neck who lived in L.A. and had it all—until the night when she was arrested and then sentenced to prison for ten years for killing her mother. Now she is out on a technicality with people still calling for her blood. Especially a blogger known as Trace, who writes passionate screeds about why Janie should be put back in prison. Once out, Janie is determined to track down who really killed her mother as she is convinced she is innocent. Her journey takes her to a small South Dakota town where she meets quite the cast of characters in the local residents. VERDICT Little makes a thrilling debut with this gripping read. Fans of Tana French and Gillian Flynn are going to enjoy the smart narrator and the twists and turns in the case. [See Prepub Alert, 2/10/14.]—Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH
Publishers Weekly
Jane Jenkins, the heroine of Little’s assured fiction debut, single-mindedly pursues one goal when she’s released from a California women’s prison. After serving 10 years of her sentence for the 2003 murder of her mother, socialite and philanthropist Marion Elsinger, she wants desperately to find out if she was indeed the culprit. Public opinion, led by the media and including crime blogger Trace Kessler, strongly leans toward belief in her guilt. Armed with a false persona, Jane disappears from the public eye and even her lawyer’s protection to follow the slimmest of leads into her secretive, tempestuous mother’s mysterious past in tiny, decaying Adeline, S.Dak., and its mirror community of Ardelle. Little (Trip of the Tongue: Cross-Country Travels in Search of America’s Languages) effectively intersperses outside perspective in the form of emails, text messages, and other communications in Jane’s entertainingly caustic first-person narrative (e.g., “Multi-tools are like insults, girls—you should always have one on hand”). Agent: Kate Garrick, DeFiore and Company. (Aug.)
Dear Daughter has three of my favorite things in a book: a smart, damaged, unstoppable narrator with a slicing sense of humor; needle-sharp writing that brings characters and atmosphere leaping off the page; and a vivid, original plot full of satisfying twists. This is an all-nighter, and the best debut mystery I've read in a long time.”
—Tana French
Kirkus Reviews
Agatha Christie meets Kim Kardashian in this sharp-edged, tart-tongued, escapist thriller.Author of two nonfiction books (Trip of the Tongue, 2012, etc.), Little makes her fiction debut with a stylishly written tale that plays off our culture's obsession with celebrity scandal. “Janie Jenkins, the infamous Hollywood celebutante,” was known for her notoriety rather than for anything she ever did, until she was convicted of murdering her mother. From the preponderance of circumstantial evidence, it seems plain that she did it—or that she was framed. And though she had motive enough—there was little love lost between the two—her memories of that evening (like many evenings) are so hazy that she really isn’t sure whether she did it or not. Now, after 10 years in jail, Janie is freed on a convenient technicality, and she embarks on a secret mission to discover the truth—about her mother, about herself—while celebrity journalists and a particularly zealous blogger try to figure out where she's gone. Says Janie: “It's hard to maintain your innocence when so many people are so sure you're not. It’s impossible when you’re not sure of anything at all—other than the awful, inescapable fact that you hadn’t particularly liked your own mother.” Her quest leads her (somewhat implausibly) to a town in South Dakota where five families have a long lineage from the days of gold fever. Amid this close-knit community, which is “like a Thanksgiving dinner that never ends,” Janie tries to discover who her mother really was, who her father really was, who she really is, and what her lawyer knows that she doesn’t. The town is like one of Christie’s closed rooms—someone who lives there holds the key to all the secrets, and that person may well be her mother’s murderer. Unless Janie is.This is breezy reading: nothing too deep or disturbing, and stronger on style than plot.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780698137424
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 7/31/2014
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 2,204
  • File size: 921 KB

Meet the Author

A graduate of Harvard University, Elizabeth Little is the author of the nonfiction books Biting the Wax Tadpole and Trip of the Tongue. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.

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Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***

Copyright © 2014 by Elizabeth Little

As soon as they processed my release, Noah and I hit the ground running. A change of clothes. A wig. An inconspicuous sedan. We doubled back once, twice, then drove south when we were headed east. In San Francisco we had a girl who looked like me board a plane to Hawaii.

Oh, I thought I was so clever.

But you probably already know that I’m not.

 I mean, come on, you didn’t really think I was just going to disappear, did you? That I would skulk off and live in the shadows? That maybe I would find a distant island, a plastic surgeon, a white ceramic half mask and a Punjab lasso? Get real.

But I never meant for it to come to this. There’s attention and then there’s attention, and sure, the latter gets you fame and money and free designer shoes, but I’m not Lindsay Lohan. I understand  the concept of declining marginal returns. It was the not knowing—that’s what I couldn’t stand. That’s why I’m here.

Did you know that the more you remember, the more you expand your perception of personal time? No, really. There’s, like, studies and shit. Even though we can’t outrun death, if we muscle up our memories the race, at least, will seem a little longer. That is, we’ll still die, but we’ll have lived more. Kind of comforting, right?

Unless, of course, you’re me.

Imagine how it would feel if, out of the blue, someone were to hand you a gold medal and tell you it was yours. Oh my god, you’d think. am  so super awesome! I won the Olympics. But, wait-what did  I win? When did  I win it? When did  I train?  Shouldn't my  biceps be  full-on Madonna? How could  I possibly forget the defining moment of my life?

And  what does  it mean that I did?

Now imagine that instead of  a gold medal you were given a murder conviction, and you'll have some sense of  how it is for me.

When I think back on the night my mother died, it's like trying to adjust a pair of  rabbit ears to pick up a distant broadcast signal. Every so often something comes into focus, but mostly I just get the scrape­ sound of  static, an impenetrable wall of  snow. Sometimes there isn't even a picture. Sometimes there isn't even a TV. Maybe if  I'd had a moment to stop and think that morning I might've had the chance to imprint a  useful detail or  two, but the police hustled me out of  the house and into a  cruiser and over to the station  before I could even think to worry about what I was wearing, much less what I might have done. By lunchtime I was in an interview room picking dried blood out from under my  fingernails while two detectives explained what they wanted me to write in my  confession.

Not that I blame them. I was always going to be  the best story. Next was the trial, which didn't have anything to do with what I knew but rather with what other people had decided I knew, and soon enough I lost the ability to tell the difference between them. And now I 'm stuck with a mess of  a memory, a hodgepodge of  angry testimony, sanctimonious magazine profiles, made-for-TV movies-less  linear narrative  than  True Hollywood Story highlight  reel. I don't know what's mine anymore.

And then there's the evidence. The only fingerprints in my  mother 's room: mine. The only DNA under my  mother's nails: probably mine. The only name written in blood next to my mother's body: definitely mine.

(That's right. You probably didn't know that part, did you?)

It 's hard enough to maintain your innocence when so many people are so sure you're not. It 's impossible when you're not sure of anything at all-other than the awful, inescapable fact that you hadn't particu­ larly liked your own mother.

The uncertainty ate at me, maggots mashing the already-decaying corpse of  my brain. And in jail, isolated from any real means of investigation, all I could do was wonder. I began to treat every action of every day like an omen, a crystal ball, a goat's intestines. How would a killer brush her teeth? How would a killer brush her hair? Would she take sugar in her coffee? Milk in her tea? Would she knot her shoelaces once? Twice?

Totally kidding. Like they would have given me  shoelaces.

Of all the challenges of  incarceration, this was perhaps the worst: I was a fundamentally rational creature reduced to rudimentary divination. I promised myself that if  I ever got out I'd try to find out what really happened, to find out what I really was.

I ignored the voice that said killing again was the only way I'd  ever know for sure.

 Messages       Noah            Contact

Tuesday 5:14 PM

Testing. Is the new phone working? Did you get this? (It’s Noah.)

What the fuck is this

It’s called text messaging.

I know what it is I just don’t know why we’re doing it

I need to make sure I can reach you.

What people don’t actually talk anymore

Welcome to the future.

Can I go back to jail now

Adapt or die, Jane.


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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 31, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    A Razor Sharp Debut Thriller!

    A special thank you to PENGUIN GROUP Viking and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

    DEAR DAUGHTER, by Elizabeth Little, is a razor sharp debut thriller which will keep you on edge until the surprise ending!

    Janie (a Paris Hilton / Kim Kardashian type celebrity) is out of prison after serving ten years, for the murder of her mother, a philanthropist. With circumstantial evidence, it appears she did it, or was framed. Her memories of the said evening which changed her life and fueled her for revenge, are not very clear; however, she cannot rest until she finds the real killer.

    There is much publicity surrounding the case, and of course crazy stalker bloggers, and celebrity journalists, so Janie has to go undercover to find answers. Her leads take her to a mining town in South Dakota, where Janie tries to find out more about her mother’s past, her father, herself, and then there is the lawyer, Noah.

    Someone holds the key to all the secrets and she is determined to find answers about the night her mother was killed. Jane knows she and her mother have never been close; however she cannot help but recall the quarrel prior to her death between her mother and someone.

    A complex and gripping story with tight and precise writing, and a not so likable smart mouth sarcastic main character Jane, which has traveled everywhere and gained notoriety through her family connections.

    It was fun seeing the transition of personalities from the real Jane to the one which is undercover, obsessed with finding clues leading to that night.

    Where nothing is as it seems, Little takes you on twists, turns, filled with humor for a clever and dramatic faced-paced mystery with family dynamics of mother-daughter plus more—alternating between the current present quest, and memories and events leading to the night her mother was murdered and of course, all the media surrounding the case.

    I am not a huge fan of celebrities, reality TV, and the gossip and glam which go along with the role; however, hoping for a sequel, as feel the ending lends itself for another interesting saga!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2014


    This book was compared to the likes of Gilliam Flynn, which couldnt be farther from the truth. She did try to put a plot twist in at the very end which failed miserably. The whole book moved incredibly slow until the last twenty pages or so... Save your time and money with this one folks, it is not worth it!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2014

    Not the best

    I know the reviews are good and I would agree on some points, but I wish I wouldn't have bothered with this book. Very disjointed aand odd, especiallly the last few chapters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2014

    I did not like this book.  It didn't hold my interest and it won

    I did not like this book.  It didn't hold my interest and it wondered around too much without significance.  However, I did not care for Gone Girl either but would have rated it little higher than Dear aughter

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 14, 2014

    When you slack off for a few days and seek praise in your own wr

    When you slack off for a few days and seek praise in your own writing, bad things tend to happen. With me, my memory went to crap on a cracker. So (like Will Ferrell in Old School during the great debate) let me regurgitate DEAR DAUGHTER in a stream of consciousness before I’m even more screwed than I already am.

    Janie Jenkins decided to take everything she had discovered over the course of her life—before she ended up in the pokey—and leave it on the side of the road. Her clothes, hair, name, and confidence…broken like a baseball bat. Her ability to mess around until the sun goes down with a semi-famous rock star. Gone. She may have been tabloid fodder with her feet firmly planted in an alternate reality, even as her mom tried to pull the minivan out of the driveway. But she had more than enough intelligence to jam a crucifix in that plan, and stay in the course in that multi-horse town.

    With her eyes downcast, and nothing to go on but a place and a date, she seeks justice for a crime she didn’t commit, even if she can’t get those ten years of her life back. But she’s bound and determined to even the score. Her character reminded me of a stray cat that had been kicked a little too much, and missed more meals than she received. Her mom couldn’t have offered a better plug for contraceptives, although she didn’t end up being a total loss.

    All the small town and South Dakota atmosphere needed was a six shooter, black hat, cloud of dust, and some western theme music. Yeah, the town nearly became a character in the story, and I reminisced about my brief stint in Rapid City, where the land was flat and the trees were sparse.

    The plot nudged along, until Elizabeth Little revved the engine and it took off near the end like a turbocharged Harley, and I nearly fell off and struck the pavement. Other than whiplash and a near brush with asphalt, I managed to keep my butt in my seat. I didn’t even need to dust myself off.

    With that being said, I didn’t like the end. It felt like I put my head through a glass door. Otherwise, though, I was good to go. If I pick up another Elizabeth Little novel, I’ll just make sure I walk with my hand in front of my face.

    I received this book for free through NetGalley.

    Robert Downs
    Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2014

    Horrible ending

    What a good book to end so badly. Whats wrong with this author? Your mom should be worried.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2014


    Great book. I read all the time and latley have been disillusioned,not with dear daughter tho. Finally a book that has substance. Author can only get better,and shes great already.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 3, 2014

    "Dear Daughter" is Elizabeth Little's debut novel and

    "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

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2014

    Whats up

    This book is not selling for under 1 .99,,,,,,,,,,,,11.00 should not be in this category in the first place......B&N SHAME ON YOU? trickery.....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2014

    a good read!

    This book was funnier than expected as the main character has a snarky sense of humor. That was an interesting surprise and made the subject--death of mother--much less daunting. I did enjoy reading this and would recommend it; however, if you are seeking a tightly-wound who-dun-it, this isn't the book for you. It would be a fun series as a light romp through dysfunction!

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  • Posted August 2, 2014

    I want to get back on the list for "FREE FRIDAYS", but

    I want to get back on the list for "FREE FRIDAYS", but I can't find the page

    No stars because I didn't get the email.

    0 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 31, 2014

    Elizabeth Little's debut novel, "Dear Daughter," is a

    Elizabeth Little's debut novel, "Dear Daughter," is a wild ride from start to finish. The author creates an engaging first-person narrator, who is both sympathetic and narcissistic. The gutsy survivor, Jane Jenkins, is determined to discover the truth about her mother's brutal murder, a crime for which Jane was convicted and incarcerated for 10 years. As the tale opens, the protagonist has been released on a technicality and sets out on a journey of (self-) discovery. Her assertive voice is immediately established when she declares, " I mean, come on, you didn't think I was just going to disappear, did you? That I would skulk off and live in the shadows?" Janie resolutely refuses to remain in the shadows even though public opinion weighs strongly against her: most view her as just another privileged Beverly Hills celebutante who got away with, yes, murder. Janie's recollections of that night are hazy at best. Inebriated, she stumbled upon her mother's bullet-riddled corpse, unable to explain to the authorities what occurred, and why she is covered in blood. Little spices up the narrative by interspersing lively chapters with court testimony, celebrity gossip columns, prison interviews, and excerpts from fictive books treating the scandalous murder saga. It seems that the entire country has a stake in this ongoing drama. Is Janie innocent or guilty? And what will she do next?

    Apart from the unforgettable protagonist, Little creates a secondary cast of characters residing in Ardelle and Adeline, South Dakota, dreary mining towns that may hold secrets to the murdered woman's past. Who is the real Marion Elsinger, the much-married Swiss American philanthropist? Janie progressively peels away the layers of deception that help explain her troubled relationship to a mother adept at role playing. Janie was drawn to Marion's mystique, while repelled by her social pretensions and harsh criticisms This ambivalence likewise marks Jane's relationships with men, including her long-suffering attorney, Noah; a perversely charming cop named Leo who may or may not be corrupt; and a father, whose identity, like much else in the novel, remains up in the air. Duplicity drives this narrative: no one is what he or she appears, there is always more than meets the eye.

    "Dear Daughter" is a must read for fans of Gillian Flynn, who excels at creating dark, self­ destructive protagonists and unexpected plot twists. Elizabeth Little is also willing to take her admittedly flawed "heroine" further into realms that many genre writers resist, preferring safer, likeable main characters. Janie Jenkins offers a "breaking bad(der)" version of such established figures as Stephanie Plum and V.I. Warshawski. Certainly, the spectacular ending twist leaves the door wide open for future sagas. Many readers will clamor to discover what Janie will do next.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted August 29, 2014

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    Posted August 23, 2014

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