Title: Dead Letters
Author: Caite Dolan-Leach
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…
This novel really surprised me – from the synopsis I thought it would be a mystery / psychological thriller-style book, but I wouldn’t class it like that. Though there is definitely a strong theme around mystery and what has happened to Ava’s sister, the story – I felt – is more of a slow burning drama or a family saga. It kept me hooked either way!
I felt the story is beautifully written and the characters are skillfully described. Ava seems less self-centered, flippant and rather annoying than her twin sister Zelda, but both seem pretty irritating in their own ways – in fact pretty much all the characters are unlikeable. However I felt that they were very interesting to read about and I really wanted to know what had really happened to Zelda – it’s a testament of the great writing that I still cared about what had happened to her! Ava’s subsequent ‘private investigation’ had twists and turns throughout which I really enjoyed reading.
The pace is fairly slow; a lot of it centers around the way Zelda’s apparent death has affected her family and friends, and the way everyone reacts to the tragedy. The whole Antipova family seemed so destroyed, and this added to the slightly eerie atmosphere that circles the book. Dead Letters seems highly focussed on character development, but has elements of mystery too, which I always enjoy reading. Some of the clues and notes from Zelda seemed to me a little far fetched, but they kept me intrigued and allowed lots of humorous lines from Ava, with her dry sense of humour.
If you like everything fast paced or only books packed with suspense, then this might not be the book for you – but I really enjoyed it and felt it was something a little different too. A skillfully written story with an intriguing mix of family drama and mystery.
Many thanks to the publisher, Corvus Books, for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.
Dead Letters is out in the UK in paperback and ebook formats on 4 May.