- “Dead Letters” by Caite Dolan-Leach
- Mystery Thriller
- Read as an ebook.
- 3/5 stars
- Finished August 3, 2017
A missing woman leads her twin sister on a twisted scavenger hunt in this clever debut novel of suspense for readers of Luckiest Girl Alive and Reconstructing Amelia.
Ahoy, Ava! Welcome home, my sweet jet-setting twin! So glad you were able to wrest yourself away from your dazzling life in the City of Light; I hope my death hasn’t interrupted anything too crucial.
Ava Antipova has her reasons for running away: a failing family vineyard, a romantic betrayal, a mercurial sister, an absent father, a mother slipping into dementia. In Paris, Ava renounces her terribly practical undergraduate degree, acquires a French boyfriend and a taste for much better wine, and erases her past. Two years later, she must return to upstate New York. Her twin sister, Zelda, is dead.
Even in a family of alcoholics, Zelda Antipova was the wild one, notorious for her mind games and destructive behavior. Stuck tending the vineyard and the girls increasingly unstable mother, Zelda was allegedly burned alive when she passed out in the barn with a lit cigarette. But Ava finds the official explanation a little too neat. A little too Zelda. Then she receives a cryptic message from her sister.
Just as Ava suspected, Zelda’s playing one of her games. In fact, she’s outdone herself, leaving a series of clues about her disappearance. With the police stuck on a red herring, Ava follows the trail laid just for her, thinking like her sister, keeping her secrets, immersing herself in Zelda’s drama and her outlandish circle of friends and lovers. Along the way, Zelda forces her twin to confront their twisted history and the boy who broke Ava’s heart. But why? Is Zelda trying to punish Ava for leaving, or to teach her a lesson? Or is she simply trying to write her own ending?
Featuring a colorful, raucous cast of characters, Caite Dolan-Leach’s debut thriller takes readers on a literary scavenger hunt for clues concealed throughout the seemingly idyllic wine country, hidden in plain sight on social media, and buried at the heart of one tremendously dysfunctional, utterly unforgettable family.
I found this book through one of the many bookish podcasts that I listen to and was really excited about it. Ava is brought back to her hometown after her crazy twin Zelda dies in a fire in the barn on their property. Then, she starts receiving letters from her, and maybe Zelda isn’t actually dead. This book was originally promoted to me as a thriller, but I really don’t think it is.
I found that this book explored family dynamics, and what it’s like living in a broken home and having to be the caretaker of a parent more than I would expect in a thriller. I found the characters extremely well developed, and while I found myself wondering “Is Zelda dead or isn’t she?” it didn’t have the pacing of the thriller title. The book moved slowly, but not in a bad way. In a very immersive way, and a way that made me want to keep reading because I wanted to know more about these characters.
The only things I didn’t really like in this book is only because I went in with the expectations of a thriller. I think a lot of my friends (and actually, my dad) would really enjoy this book, because yes, while Ava is trying to figure out whether or not Zelda is dead, she’s dealing with her dad who has come back for the funeral and abandoned them, her mother who has dementia, her grandmother who is very over the top, her ex boyfriend, and more. I found it much more a deep dive into the characters, than a fast paced “What’s happening next?” feeling that I expect in thrillers.
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