How do you get over the rape and murder of your only daughter? If you are Jim you look for your dead daughter everywhere, she is with you as an apparition. If you are Patty you will spend twenty years searching for her killer vowing to avenge for her death.
For those of you who have read my previous reviews you will know that I am not really a big fan of ghosts (apart from the ones in A Christmas Carol) so when I started reading The Last Winter of Dani Lancing I was irritated that Dani is talking to her father so many years after her death. That feeling didn’t last long as I got sucked in by the story and agreed that Jim’s relationship with Dani adds a certain something to this time-hopping story of a hunt for a murderer.
The story is told through the eyes of Jim, Dani’s father, Patty her mother and Tom now a detective in London who was Dani’s friend, although it soon becomes clear that he wanted more than just her friendship. Dani died in Durham having moved there to go to university and the trail crosses the country as the story unfolds.
The use of the different times from before Dani’s death to the present where Patty believes she has now found a concrete lead to Dani’s murderer is used to perfection to increase the tension as pieces of information are revealed. P.D. Viner really proves himself to be a master at that slow turn of the handle revealing a twist and then taking a step in a different direction, making this reader wait for the next revelation, the next piece of the puzzle all the while reappraising who I thought had murdered poor Dani. I have to say I was so far off knowing whodunit it was laughable.
The characterisation was fantastic, Jim only willing to remember his beautiful and innocent daughter, Patty who was filled with the need for revenge, a raw anger against the killer but what feels like a more realistic portrayal of a mother’s relationship with her complex daughter and Tom, known as the sad man, perhaps because of his role in the police he is the one chosen to break bad news; or is it because he was broken by the death of the young woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with?
A truly original take on what could have been a depressing story of those people left behind when someone dies; instead it is this and so much more and I will certainly be looking out for more books by the talented P.D. Viner.
I received a free copy of this book from the publishers Random House UK in return for this honest review. They bill this as ‘A hauntingly original debut that will stay with you long after the last page’ and I don’t disagree.