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.