Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing - P.D. Viner

I received this in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads:  A riveting psychological thriller in the tradition of Before I Go to Sleep and Memento that introduces P. D. Viner as a master of suspense

Twenty years ago, college student Dani Lancing was kidnapped and brutally murdered. The killer was never found, and the case has long gone cold. Her parents, Patty and Jim, were utterly devastated, their marriage destroyed. While Jim fell apart, Patty was consumed by the unsolved case. She abandoned her journalism career and her marriage to spend every waking hour searching and plotting. She keeps contact with Tom, Dani's childhood sweetheart, who has become a detective intent on solving murders like Dani's. When he finds a lead that seems ironclad, he brings Patty in on it. After years of dead ends, her obsession is rekindled, and she will do anything for revenge, even become a killer herself-dragging her whole family into the nightmare once again, as lies and secrets are uncovered.


I really don't know how I feel about this.  Did I like it?  I honestly have no idea.  I think a big part of it is that it wasn't what I was expecting.  In some ways, that was a really cool thing, and in's just not the sort of book I would have picked up knowing some things about it.  So take this review with a grain of salt.

Let me start by saying that I almost had to DNF the book in the beginning because it starts out with a bang.  And by with a bang, I mean lots of blood, and graphically so.  I wasn't expecting it to be so...graphic.  That was in part my difficulty getting into to story to begin with (along with a couple other things I'll talk about later).  Now this is a thing other people love, so it's definitely not a criticism of the book.  I've already mentioned on the blog what a baby I turn into when it comes to scary things.  So this is nothing against the book, and everything to do with my cowardly imaginative mind.  But I refuse to DNF books, so I pushed through and I'm glad I did, because there were things I didn't expect that I did like.

Most mystery novels I read or watch on tv focus on the investigators, not on the family itself.  This book chose to reverse that situation.  It gave a very interesting point of view on the story - especially with the story lines alternating between Dani's father, mother, and her best friend.  It gave a much more intense emotional impact because of this, and I think in part it's also why the gory parts bothered me so much.  It's a little easier to distance yourself from an investigator's part in all of this, because they see this sort of violence every day.  That being said, because it was character based, it is rather helpful if you actually like the characters.  From the start, I didn't like Pattie very much.  She's rather...driven, in an unattractive manner.  Tom is somewhat more likeable but the longer I spent with him the more I was equal parts repulsed by him and pitied him.  Neither are particularly pleasant emotions.  Jim is by far the most enjoyable character.  I was a bit thrown by *slight spoilers, you'd be fine if you chose to read this I think * the ghost of Dani hanging out with him, which is weird and definitely not what I would have expected in this sort of mystery novel.  I am not quite sure how I feel about this addition other than the fact that I liked this version of Dani much more than the glimpses of her past even if she didn't seem to do much to add the story so I'm not really sure what her purpose was *end spoilers*, but overall he's a well-meaning, likeable guy.  We see glimpses of Dani's past but you should read the slight spoilers to see my thoughts on that.

Some people might not like the different timelines being told simultaneously (well in alternating chapters) as well as a focus on different characters in each chapter (not first person, but third person limited), but I thought it was a really effective way of revealing just enough information with just enough bait to keep you going.  Others have criticized the book for being too twisty and convenient, but honestly in a mystery novel that doesn't bother me too much.  I will say that it's definitely not who/what you are expecting.  As soon as you think you me you don't!

So the characters are ok, and I enjoyed the way the plot was unfolded...but then...THE EPILOGUE.  Wtf was that??  Is this supposed to be a series?  Was that a conclusion?  WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!?!  It seriously felt like the story ended...but then it ended again like mid sentence!  What??  I don't read unfinished series. Or I at least wait until there's more than one book out.  And I hate discovering only at the the end of a book that it is not a standalone!  I mean it's definitely not marketed as a series - I checked.  I think that's more the fault of the business side of the book, but I can't say I would have been a fan of the way the author chose to write the epilogue anyway had I known this was going to continue.


I think this was an interesting way of writing a mystery novel.  I liked that it focused on the family and not  the investigators - I thought that was really effective.  It may have been more effective had I liked most of the characters, but that's a personal feeling as was the fact that parts of it were too gory for me (because really...I'm not exaggerating when I say that I can't handle scary/gory things!)  Basically this book wasn't so much for me, but I think there are plenty of people out there who will enjoy this.

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