Dear Daughter: A Novel

Dear Daughter: A Novel

by Elizabeth Little

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 •  Winner of the Strand Critics Award for Best First Novel  •  Nominated for the Barry and Macavity Awards for Best First Novel   •  Longlisted for the CWA John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger Award

“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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780698137424
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/31/2014
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 58,200
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About 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.

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. I 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.


What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“When former It Girl Janie Jenkins is released from prison, she embarks on a mission to discover if it was really she who murdered her mother. The debut novel’s twists will easily hook you, but it’s the narrator’s dark wit and sharp observations that make this a truly fun read.” 
Entertainment Weekly 
“Little keeps you guessing until the end — and then closes her book with a final, twisted flourish.”
—Daneet Steffens, The Boston Globe
“Compelling. . . . This novel's engrossing suspense comes from its unreliable (and not especially likable) narrator who pursues answers with relentless fervor, regardless of the painful truths she turns up about herself. . . . Excellent.”
—Stephanie Klose,
“Engrossing. . . The unlikable protagonist with a biting personality and outrageous actions, but who is fascinating at the same time, has never been more popular. Just think of Gone Girl. In her confident fiction debut, Elizabeth Little puts a fresh spin on this character in the form of Jane Jenkins, a young woman famous for being famous until she was sent to prison for the murder of her wealthy socialite mother. Little also makes Dear Daughter a parable about the cult of the celebrity stoked by a relentless press and a ruthless public’s thirst for details of a woman it loves to hate.”
Associated Press 

“This is not your mother’s mystery. The clever, prickly and profane heroine is, after all, a former It Girl whose aim as a teen was to be the next Paris Hilton, only better. . . . Sassy and lively. . . . The book’s satisfying conclusion somehow manages to tie things up while also providing a cliffhanger, a pretty neat trick for a debut novel.”
—Colleen Kelly, The Minneapolis Star Tribune 

“The best debut crime novel of 2014, a spiky, voicey, jolting, surprising story of a celebutante convicted of murdering her mother . . . Little also produces one of the best endings of 2014, too.”  —Sarah Weinman, The National Post (Canada)
“A former It Girl hunts down her mom’s murderer in this can’t-put-down thriller.”
“Do you want a mystery novel that you can stay up all night reading and then take to the beach to finish it off the next day? Elizabeth Little’s Dear Daughter is pretty much all you need: the tale of a former high society girl who gets out of prison and goes on a mission to find out who really killed her mother.” 
Flavorwire (Must-Read Books for August) 
“In prison for her mother’s murder, L.A. socialite Jane Jenkins is released on a technicality. To track down the real killer Jane gets plain, goes underground and stirs up dangerous amounts of dirt in her mom’s South Dakota hometown.”
Good Housekeeping 
“[A] fun and riveting debut mystery.” 
The San Diego Union Tribune
“Part celebrity, part sleuth and all sass, the memorable Janie Jenkins is out to prove she didn't murder her mother in this smart debut thriller. . . . Little drives Dear Daughter with the string of surprises and buried secrets revealed as Janie unravels the mystery of her mother's past. It is a thriller much like Gillian Flynn's blockbuster Gone Girl—except instead of the East Coast literary angst of Flynn's protagonists stuck in Missouri, Little's Midwest visitor really does have L.A. ‘glitter in her veins.’” 
Shelf Awareness 
“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.” 
Library Journal (starred review) 
“Agatha Christie meets Kim Kardashian in this sharp-edged, tart-tongued, escapist thriller. . . A stylishly written tale that plays off our culture's obsession with celebrity scandal.”
Kirkus Reviews 

“Stunning and chilling. . . . A harrowing story that will keep readers on the edge of their seat. The ending is like a punch in the nose, coming out of nowhere and leaving readers breathless. Whether you take this mystery to the beach or relax in front of your air conditioner, this is a novel you should not miss.”
“Clever. . . . This is a killer debut, in every sense of the word!” 
  “[An] assured fiction debut . . . Little effectively intersperses outside perspective in the form of emails, text messages, and other communications in Jane’s entertainingly caustic first-person narrative.”
Publishers Weekly

“Janie keeps them all guessing . . .  An unusual protagonist who will intrigue readers who favor strong, smart women.”
“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

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, New York Times bestselling author of Broken Harbor and In the Woods
“Clever, original, and darkly witty, Dear Daughter’s many twists will keep you on your toes as you fall under the spell of its unapologetic, whip-smart narrator.”
—Kimberly McCreight, New York Times bestselling author of Reconstructing Amelia
“What a devilish, delightful treat of a novel! Crackling with wit and shining with originality, Dear Daughter is the kind of whirlwind mystery that will keep you hooked—and guessing—until the very end.”
—Sara Shepard, New York Times bestselling author of Pretty Little Liars

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