Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

Blank bookcover with clipping path

What’s it about?

Ava doesn’t believe it when the email arrives to say that her twin sister is dead. It’s not grief or denial that causes her scepticism – it just feels too perfect to be anything other than Zelda’s usual manipulative scheming. And Ava knows her twin.

Two years after she left, vowing never to speak to Zelda again after the ultimate betrayal, Ava must return home to retrace her errant sister’s last steps. She soon finds notes that lead her on a twisted scavenger-hunt of her twin’s making.

Letter by letter, Ava unearths clues to her sister’s disappearance: and unveils harrowing truths of her own. A is for Ava, and Z is for Zelda, but deciphering the letters in-between is not so simple…

You can buy a copy of this novel on Amazon UK | Amazon US.

Review

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This is an undoubtedly brilliant debut novel, well thought out and cleverly plotted. This is the very first time I can also report that I’ve read a more ‘literary’ novel and I actually enjoyed it very much. I admit, at first I thought it wasn’t going to work out, the language and formulation, especially from Zelda’s POV, was different from my usual easy reads, but suddenly something gave way and I became totally engrossed in the story. Was it the author’s doing or was it just me getting used to it and acclimatising so well? I don’t have a clue but the prose just flew for me from thereon.

The story kicks off with Ava returning home after she hears of her sister’s death. Ava left home 2 years ago after a mysterious dispute with her twin sister, not having talked to her since. In a way though she also grabbed the opportunity when it presented itself to escape from her highly dysfunctional family. Her father had left them for his second family already by then and the twin sisters were left with a huge vineyard and a mother whose dementia could no longer be ignored. This delightful mystery about what happened to her sister was perfectly mixed with the unraveling of Ava and Zelda’s family history. A family where literally everyone is an alcoholic, an addiction rather easy to accomodate if your home is a vineyard. This was definitely a very character-driven novel as well, even though Zelda is presumed dead I really got to know her through the messages she sent to her sister.

Right from the start Ava has a hard time believing her sister is actually dead, even though remains were found, and when she starts getting messages from her sister and realises she’s sending her on some sort of scavenger hunt in and around the house her winner’s instinct kicks in. She has to figure out what game she’s playing and that means finding the clues her sister hints at and revisiting their shared past memories. A is for Ava and Z is for Zelda, like it always was, but she’ll have to look for the letters in between. I got lost in their wordgame easily and I eagerly anticipated each new letter that was coming up next. It was highly addictive and I felt we were racing towards the end of the alphabet but what would be the outcome? Would Ava find Zelda in time or would Zelda make a big appearance in the end, laughing at them all for playing her tricks on them? I honestly didn’t know how this was going to turn out. Would her sister set her up perhaps for her murder, but then who did they find in the barn, or would she leave everything behind and just disappear when the game was over and leave her to care for their demented mother alone? More possibilities seemed to crop up, her sister’s funeral looming in the distance and time cutting to a close. I don’t want to give anything away but the ending is excellent and makes me want to give it that little bit extra appreciation,.. you’ll have to read it to find out.

I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

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33 thoughts on “Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

  1. I really like the sound of this Inge! In fact I had it from the library but had to return it unread when it was due. Based on your review I think I’ll try to get it back, you’ve got me wondering about the sister! Excellent review:)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The book with two very different covers! XD Glad you enjoyed it and I truly enjoyed your review!! I went on a little search and read some other reviews for it as well and they’ve given me a bit of a pause… I initially thought it sounded very very promising, but it’s kind of a slow burn, is it?
    I am still intrigued, though… maybe in the future! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes it is.. it’s more of a journey to self-discovery, a family history explained through these clues, a bit of a mix and not so much a real investigation of the possible murder/death of her sister. All I knew was ‘clues’ and I knew I wanted to read it so good thing it turned out as an engaging read in the end for me. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yay, you read another great debut! I’m loving all these new mystery/thriller Authors lately! This sounds so good, I have heard mixed reviews as with any other book so I was hesitant on picking it up. You might have persuaded me though, it sounds good! Fantastic review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • After a few 3 star reads it’s definitely getting better again with the books I picked. I can understand it’s not a book for everyone as it’s more about family history than the actual investigation of a crime. You’ll get at the revelation in the end too though ;-).

      Like

  4. This sounds like a really good book, plus I quite like the sound of there being letters involved, and now I’m dying to know what Zelda did that caused the rift between them, great review 🙂

    Like

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