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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Perfect Daughter

ISBN: 978-1250267924

Publisher: St. Martins Press

Publication Date: 4/20/21

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: 5 Stars ++ Author Q&A Interview

TOP BOOKS OF 2021 The Perfect Daughter is a thriller that explores the truth or lies behind a teenage girl's multiple personality disorder, from D.J. Palmer, the author of The New Husband.

Grace never dreamt she’d visit her teenage daughter Penny in the locked ward of a decaying state psychiatric hospital, charged with a shocking and brutal murder. There was not much question of her daughter’s guilt. Police had her fingerprints on the murder weapon and the victim’s blood on her body and clothes. But they didn’t have a motive.

Grace blames herself, because that’s what mothers do—they look at their choices and wonder, what if? But hindsight offers little more than the chance for regret.

None of this was conceivable the day Penny came into her life. Then, it seemed like a miracle. Penny was found abandoned, with a mysterious past, and it felt like fate brought Penny to her, and her husband Arthur. But as she grew, Penny's actions grew more disturbing, and different "personalities" emerged.

Arthur and Grace took Penny to different psychiatrists, until one diagnosed a severe multiple personality disorder. As Penny awaits trial in a state mental hospital, she is treated by Dr. Mitchell McHugh, a psychiatrist battling demons of his own. Grace’s determination to understand the why behind her daughter’s terrible crime fuels Mitch’s resolve to help the Francone family. Together, they set out in search of the truth about Penny, but discover instead a shocking hidden history of secrets, lies, and betrayals that put all their lives in grave danger.


"Will keep readers in its grip."

―Publishers Weekly

D. J. Palmer Books

View Review (2019) Saving Meghan

View Review of (2020) The Perfect Husband

View Q&A with D.J. (2020) The Perfect Husband

View Review (2021) The Perfect Daughter

My Review

Author D. J Palmer returns following The Perfect Husband (2020) and Saving Megan (2019) (links above) with his most intense and gripping domestic suspense yet —THE PERFECT DAUGHTER.

"Emotionally explosive, fast-paced, action-packed, and haunting. Palmer is at the top of his game!

Cleverly plotted, a twisty, multi-layered complex psychological thriller on steroids, with an explosive heart-pounding and jaw-dropping court scene—when all is revealed.

My mouth is still hanging open. You may have to go back and re-read when you get to this part. Trust me, it is, “award-winning” and you will not see this coming!

Truly EPIC, Mr. Palmer. If you are looking for a unique thriller that stands apart from the rest, this is the one!

Now let’s get into the details.

Set in Swampscott, MA, an average family, which turns into anything but ordinary. Parents Grace and Arthur Francone live in the suburbs and have two sons, Jack and Ryan. Grace always wanted a girl. One day at the park, her wish came true.

She discovers a poor little girl alone in the park, hiding. Her parents, nowhere in sight.

Being the good mother, Grace, of course, calls the authorities and stays connected to the case. Finally leading to adoption. The girl was only four years old, and they did not know the sort of mental illness that existed until much later. She was around thirteen when diagnosed.

As the book opens, Penny (the name they gave her) is now sixteen-years-old and has been arrested for murder. The person that has been murdered is the biological birth mother, Rachel Boyd. The police believe a homicide.

There is a history here, and Palmer provides all the details filling in the blanks from the time they found Penny until today.

Penny has DID, Dissociative identity disorder. We will find out just how complex this is for family, legal, and medical.

Meet Ruby, who speaks with a British accent. Then there’s Chloe, a perfectionist who strives for straight A’s. And along comes Eve, who is spiteful and vicious. All of them live inside Penny… Or do they?

Which personality murdered the mother and why? Or was it someone else?

Penny does not speak. However, to help save her, her mother is very protective, and now she must hire a criminal defense attorney and try and find a doctor specializing in this condition.

An attorney falls into her lap.

However, one of Penny’s friends is very dark – Maria and very manipulative when looking over the past. There is a lot of evidence that does not help her case from the past with violent fantasies the girls secretly shared with a hit list of targets and murder.

Back then, Penny’s psychiatrist came to the rescue but now murder. One of those targets happened to be Ryan (the other son), who had difficulty with his sister and Rachel Boyd was the other.

How much trauma did Penny actually experience before coming to live with her adopted family? This time she has a bloodstained knife in her hand but has blacked out the events with no memory. Real or fake?

The mom is tenacious and does not believe Penny is a murderer. She must find a professional who can work with her to prove this. However, they can never get to speak to Penny. She is always turning into another personality to guard her. Time is running out before going to trial.

Greg Navarro was hired as the attorney. Penny’s brothers Jack and Ryan attend college in Boston.

Were the personalities really a psychopath inventing alternate characters to justify and explain away the crimes and this time murder? Is she playing them? Is she damaged or deranged?

With her alters taken over and locked up in Edgewater State Hospital, which less a healthcare facility and more housing for the criminally insane. They must seek a competent a psychiatrist who can get through to her.

There are hints that someone else was there. There are many clues if they can put them together to help re-enact that night to bring back Penny to determine what happened. She is in a fugue state. Penny has no memory of how she had come to be at the hospital.

There is the bad shrink, and also one of the brothers is acting weird, and many red herrings having readers suspecting everyone. Jack, the film student, seems to be helping but not Ryan, who is acting weird.

The family pizza restaurant is failing and there are money problems. Ryan drops out of college. The husband dies (suspicions there), and now all of this is left on Grace to bear the burden. Jack is making a film which makes it more intriguing.

A new doctor takes over the case, Dr. Mitch McHugh (adore him). He has his own tormented family past, and just maybe he can reach the real Penny to determine what happened that night.

However, there are behind the scene forces, clues, and faint memories. As the book moves on with more twists than the Pacific Hwy, we arrive at the explosive court scene.

Will, they put Penny on the stand, and what if one of her personalities takes over? It could hurt the case. What comes next will have your head spinning and jaw-dropping! Out of nowhere, nothing is as it appears.

Wow! This was one intense and highly entertaining impeccable suspense thriller. No one does complex mental health issues mixed with domestic family drama better than Palmer. An unlikely pair of broken people come together to solve a murder.

Palmer adds a nice tie-in to the story with the doctor and his family seeking redemption. He is compassionate and determined, with his own mental problems and drug issues- son and family.

Fans of Author, Michael Robotham’s (a favorite), will enjoy this one; especially, fans of his Cyrus Haven series. THE PERFECT DAUGHTER is a perfect spring and summer read. I am hoping for a sequel or series. I want to see more of Dr. Mitch McHugh.

If you have not read D.J Palmer or Daniel Palmer, you better move them to the top of your list. Of course, this is Daniel and Michael Palmer (long-time fan) which are the BEST. Now writing under a new name D.J., and combining the best of father and son with domestic suspense with medical thrillers for a winning-combo. He just keeps getting better and better. His writing is stellar. Your dad would be proud! (yes, we readers miss him, too).

Highly recommend! Stay tuned for my upcoming Elevator Ride with D.J., where we will go behind the book’s scenes and the author on April 20th .

A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy.

Q&A Elevator Ride with Author D.J. Palmer April 20, 2021

DJ Palmer

About the Author

D.J. Palmer is the author of numerous critically acclaimed suspense novels, including Delirious and Desperate. After receiving his master’s degree from Boston University, he spent a decade as an e-commerce pioneer before turning his attention to writing. He lives with his wife and two children in New Hampshire.






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