Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach
Ava and Zelda are twins, their naming triggering a family joke about being opposite ends of the alphabet. That's all past tense now though as Zelda is dead. Ava is told the news via her mother's terse, dispassionate email before Ava can come home to the US from Paris. Zelda burnt to death in the family's barn where she sometimes slept… at least that's the story and human remains were indeed found in the barn. But then why is Ava still receiving emails from Zelda? Emails that taunt, emails that remind and emails that suggest Zelda is very much alive. To discover the truth all Ava needs to do is follow the clues and relive some painful memories.
|Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A novel that relies on a lack knowledge in a certain area for one of the twists at the destination, but is well worth it for the roller coaster ride along the way.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: May 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
Caite Dolan-Leach taught me a lesson in this, her debut novel: never judge a book by the book blurb. This is a novel sold heavily on a particular twist so when I convinced myself I'd guessed it just from the blurb, I began reading with a heavy heart. In actual fact I had guessed correctly but I quickly realised that didn't matter. There's so much more to this novel than one twist. In fact the journey towards the end is so well written it makes it more than worth the read.
All families are complex and we soon discover that Ava's family are at the meaty end of complexity. Ava's homecoming allows her to review what this has meant to them all while disclosing some fascinating home truths to us in both real time and flashback.
The girls' parents, Marlon and Nadine, set up home and created a vineyard in a mist of hippy idealism. Yet the reality was different and the intervening years haven't been kind. The couple are now divorced, Marlon living elsewhere with his second family apparently leaving everyone else to more or less get on with it.
The story's from Ava's viewpoint which means that, on first appearances, Zelda doesn't come across as an endearing person. However the more that's revealed, the more we wonder why Zelda isn't nastier. Zelda's vehemence may sting and Ava's justification for not speaking to her twin may seem righteous, but the more we read, the more our loyalties waiver.
Indeed the cleverness of this novel is the drip-fed revelations. A jigsaw of family relationships shows how precarious affections wrought by blood can be. Then when Caite starts interweaving small town life, we hit on other levels of fiction gold.
Who is the mysterious Jason? Is Zelda dead and if so, looking at the evidence, how? These are questions we find ourselves asking but in the end it almost doesn't matter. Caite writes in a way that ensures we're enveloped with the family, turning each page in the hope that it'll be alright.
To sell this book on that one twist doesn’t do it justice: the entire story stands on much merit, not to mention Caite Dolan-Leach's talent.
(We'd like to thank Corvus for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If this appeals and you'd like to continue with more of the best thrillers around at the moment, we also recommend Friends and Liars by Kaela Coble and/or Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney – a great choice for all those who loved the superlative Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson. You might also enjoy Stop Me by Richard Jay Parker.
You can read more book reviews or buy Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.