Dead Letters

By Caite Dolan-Leach

Source: Purchased

Series: n/a

Publication Date: February 21, 2017

Published by Books on Tape

My Rating: four-stars

Dead Letters

Cover image and synopsis from Goodreads:

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’d heard a lot about this book before I read it, mostly on Litsy. I was really intrigued and decided to get my own copy.

This book definitely had an element of mystery – what was going on with Zelda? – but it was also a really interesting, engrossing study of a family. Ava and her family have a lot to deal with – alcoholism, debt, disordered eating, dysfunctional relationships, aging and ill parents, among other things – and it is against this background of a complex family dynamic that Ava tries to solve the mystery of what happened to her twin sister Zelda. Is she alive or dead? Where are the letters coming from and what do they mean?

I really enjoyed this book, and could not put it down. But I also found aspects of it really heartbreaking. I love stories about families and this is a great one: well-written, complex, moving, and with a good mystery. Recommended!

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