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by Kaira Rouda
Graydon House, May 2019
369 pages
ISBN: 1525835149

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER by Kaira Rouda is a psychological thriller filled with liars. Jane Harris has spent a year in a drug-filled haze as she mourns the death of her eldest daughter Mary. Finally ready to reconnect with her husband David and younger daughter Betsy, Jane has prepared a lovely family dinner.

But Betsy is working on a school project late and won't be home, and David comes home only to immediately head out again. This is not what Jane imagined happening at all, but she's sure the reconnection will happen soon. She'll make it happen. Then a note arrives to change all of her plans.

Someone believes Mary's death wasn't an accident, and that Betsy knows something. Suddenly, little things begin to come together. Betsy coming home in the early morning hours and refusing to tell Jane where she's been, not telling her even simple things like what she's been working on for the past year. Coupled with David's distance and late nights at the office, Jane believes there is a liar in her house. She has no idea how right she is.

THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER is a spellbinding tale of twists, turns, and he-said, she-said. A comfortable family has dealt with a tragic death, and they've all come out of mourning in different ways. Some of those ways are more extreme than others.

Set in a affluent Southern California neighborhood filled with exactly what you'd expect- gossipy neighbors, symbolic palm trees, and heavily guarded gates- we are introduced to some enigmatic characters trying to create a new normal. At least, two are trying to create a new normal. Jane Harris is trying very hard to get things back to how they used to be, and her determination is shocking.

At first, I found myself horrified by Jane. She was so self-centered that she couldn't look beyond her own feelings and refused to even understand why even the simplest of things wouldn't conform to her expectations. She's the kind of person that I have seen multiple times, and quickly get as far away from as possible. But that narcissism is what makes her so fascinating.

The more you read, the more you doubt her, but then something comes along and makes you think she was right all along. Jane is such a outlandish character that it's hard to believe her, but there's something gripping about her determination that keeps you reading just to see how far she goes.

Betsy is another outstanding character who fits the rebellious teenager trope to the max. The secrets she hides are so valuable and they are revealed at just the right moments. The same goes for David, and suddenly you must observe three mysteries all connected to one family. How much do these characters really know, and why would all be coming out now?

Whether Mary's death was an accident or not is the core mystery of the novel. Frankly, I found it obvious after the first few chapters. However, there were plenty of moments that left me wondering if I was right. Just when I think I'd figured out exactly what happened, a new clue contradicted something or someone else. Though I figured it out, the ending still left me surprised and having to put all the pieces together.

Much as she always wanted to be, the unreliable narrator, Jane Harris is a shining star in THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER. Well written characters, an extravagant setting, and a series of lies will keep you turning the pages until even after you're finished, you'll still wonder who really tells the truth.

Keshena Hanson recently earned a degree in English from University of Wisconsin - Green Bay, and was published in the University's Sheepshead Review. Her love for mystery started with Blue's Clues, and now she reads any mystery she can get her hands on.

Reviewed by Keshena Hanson, July 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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