The Perfect Daughter
reviewed by Sandra Hoover
A mother and son are shocked to find a small child abandoned in a park on a cold, rainy night. They take her home, clean her up and call authorities. When no one claims the girl, Grace Francone believes it’s a sign from above. This is the daughter she’s always wanted, and the family is elated when the adoption goes through. With two sons and now a daughter, everything is perfect . . . until it isn’t.
Years later, a knock at her door leaves Grace flabbergasted and in denial. Her adopted daughter has been arrested for murder. Penny was discovered in shock and covered in blood, standing over the mutilated body of the birth mother she’s never known. Grace is horrified and dismayed as evidence quickly mounts against the young teen. When Grace finally speaks with Penny, she’s alarmed to find it’s not Penny talking to her, but Eve—one of several alters that have surfaced over the years since Grace brought Penny into their home. Grace believes Penny has Disassociate Identity Disorder; however, after several sessions with psychiatrists, her diagnosis remains undefined. Penny is relegated to Edgewater Psychiatric Hospital for observation and study while awaiting trial for murder. Convinced of Penny’s innocence, Grace hires an attorney and begins an investigation of her own unknowingly rattling some old cages. If Grace can’t prove Penny has DSD—meaning she can’t be held accountable for her actions, then she’ll be convicted and sent to prison or . . . someone is framing her for murder. Who?
A young teen’s identity crisis and a family in turmoil spiral out of control in this dark, startling thriller. As Grace tries to save her daughter from life in prison, her family and world fall apart around her. Through skillful prose, Palmer tells the story of a protective mother’s secret guilt – her worry that she may have invited catastrophe into her family when she chose to make Penny her own and her determination to make things right. Told through multiple points of view, readers are charged with discovering the truth. Is Penny’s disorder real or an elaborate ruse? Is she mentally ill? Or a murderess?
The Perfect Daughter delves into the social stigma and prejudice surrounding mental disorders and the public, legal system and health professional’s tendency to doubt the existence of DSD. Clearly, Palmer has done intensive research into Dissociate Identity Disorder including typical treatment options as well as the often horrifying conditions of mental hospitals of old. Through past/present chapters, Palmer expertly weaves an edgy, complex, taut story elevating the pace and intensity as readers race toward a surprising ending. The emergence of Penny’s alters during trial is fascinating – a window into the psyche of a emotionally fragile girl. Penny either has DSD, or she’s a skilled psychopath. The Perfect Daughter is a riveting, intense, highly entertaining thriller. Highly recommended to fans of suspense and psychological thrillers!