Review: The Last Winter of Dani Lancing by P.D. Viner


LastWinterofDaniLancingThe Last Winter of Dani Lancing by P. D. Viner (Crown Publishers, 2013)


Twenty years have passed since Danielle Lancing was kidnapped and murdered. Twenty years in which the case has gone cold, in which her family has been torn apart, her friends’ lives forever changed.

Dani’s father Jim speaks to her on a daily basis. She is there with him, reassuring him, helping him cope with each new day. Dani’s mother is a woman on a mission. Having given up hope of ever finding justice for her daughter, she has learned that Dani’s case is going to be re-opened due to advances in forensic science. But that means more waiting, and waiting is not something Patty Lancing is willing to do. It’s slight comfort that DS Tom Bevans, who has loved Dani his entire life, is heading the investigation. He’s devoted his career to solving this kind of case: the murders of young women. How far is he willing to go to solve Dani’s murder?

We gradually learn about Dani from her ghostly interactions with her father and her observations of the other people she still visits, through their idealized—and not so idealized—memories of her, and through a series of flashbacks that gradually illuminate the real Danielle, who is far more complex than we are first led to believe.

Telling a story in reverse chronology can be a very effective strategy. There are two primary pitfalls to avoid: First is when the structure becomes the story, when a mundane plot is told in reverse, thereby making it a little more interesting than it might otherwise be. The other is when the device is used to withhold information that is known to the characters from the reader, to create a mystery where one doesn’t necessarily exist. This is the strategy that is employed by Viner. While it’s generally successful, it’s also frustrating; while some characters’ reasons for their actions rang true, others didn’t, and there are perhaps a few too many twists and turns that make the plot more complicated than it needed to be.

The writing is somewhat uneven. Viner is best when he is focusing on his characters, whose motivations and emotions come across as genuine and imbue them with depth and purpose. It’s when Viner is trying to provide a sense of narrative tone that he stumbles; in particular, there is a nod to Peter Pan that seemed out of place. The epilogue is likewise puzzling—is it intended to be a resolution or a continuation of the story? Still, The Last Winter of Dani Lancing is a solid thriller, and I look forward to Viner’s next book.

This ARC was furnished by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My rating: 4 stars


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