Dear Daughter

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I read Elizabeth Little's most recent book, Pretty as a Picture, earlier this year, and enjoyed it quite a bit. This one is her debut novel, and wasn't quite as enjoyable. But that's me, not her.

It's narrated by Janie Jenkins, and she's just out of the slammer after ten long years. She was convicted of gruesomely murdering her mother, but got released on a technical issue. (The lab tasked with processing the crime scene DNA evidence messed up badly.) Hers was a spectacular trial, because Janie and her mother were rich and famous. (As near as I can tell, they were "famous for being famous".) Her release is also spectacular, because she, with some help from her lawyer, immediately drops off the grid, adopts a new identity, and sheds the media hordes desperate to find out what she's up to.

What she's up to: finding out what really happened the night of her mother's murder. She's not 100% certain she didn't do it (and neither are we). But she remembers a few words from a loud overheard argument. And they send her off on a long journey to an unexpected, unglamorous location. Where, she hopes, the truth about her mother's past, and her own, can be deduced.

Janie is funny and smart. That's the good news. The bad news is, she's a bitch on 18 wheels, a semi-tractor-trailer truck of sociopathy. She lies, cheats, and steals. And she's only pleasant to people if she thinks that's the best way to dupe them into doing what she wants. I'm not usually sympathetic to such characters, but the "funny and smart" part tilted things her way. (For a fictional character. If I met someone like her in real life, I hope I'd have the good sense to back away slowly.)

The other problem is that it's one of those books where a whole bunch of suspects are dropped into the narrative all at once. I have a problem with keeping things straight when that happens. (I'd add "at my age", but I'm pretty sure I was never good at that.)