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All booksMysteryDead Letters
Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

Dead Letters

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Caite Dolan-Leach, on your first book!

by Caite Dolan-Leach

Quick take

The clues that Zelda leaves for Ava are so much more than standard mystery misdirection. They are a window into the myths a family creates around one another.

Why I love it

Sarah Weinman

"A born creator of myths, my sister always liked to tell the story of how we were misnamed." I knew from this first sentence that this debut thriller would be something special. For the narrator, Ava, was born minutes after her twin sister Zelda. The alphabet's reversal foreshadowed the sibling pecking order. Zelda is the wild, vibrant, larger-than-life twin. Ava is the buttoned-up, reserved, by-the-book twin. To put it in terms of stress responses, Ava, having spirited herself away from the failing family vineyard to Paris, is flight. Zelda, who stayed behind, is pure fight.

Or at least, that's how it seems on the surface. When Ava gets word of Zelda's sudden and surprising death, she returns home to the family vineyard in upstate New York. Eerie messages from her twin, apparently from beyond the grave, signal the beginning of an alphabet-themed scavenger hunt that might (or might not) prove that Zelda is, in fact, alive. Dolan-Leach plots her twists fairly and with care, and her sense of fun is infectious. There's a winning "let me entertain you" vibe that takes hold.

But I loved Dead Letters most for imbuing its froth-laden surface with real emotional heft. The stakes are high. Ava, following the sequential traps laid by Zelda, comes to devastating terms with what remained in her home even after she fled: family dysfunction, her tendency to hide from troublesome feelings about alcohol and ex-boyfriends and abandonment, and how her sister's love—and multiple betrayals—matter to Ava above all. The playful clues that Zelda leaves for Ava are so much more than standard mystery misdirection. They are a window into the myths a family creates around one another to protect from and draw closer to those we love most—the mysteries that haunt us well after we solve them.

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Member thoughts

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4374 ratings
  • 38% Love
  • 48% Like
  • 10% Dislike
  • San Diego, CA

    This book was just the right amount of dark, the twist is one I didn’t see coming which is always a big plus. Delving into family trauma, the main character is relatable, although driven by paranoia.

  • Victorville, CA

    This book was incredible and such an incredible view into a relationship between sisters who shouldn't let anything come between them but did. Loved every single twist and turn with the unexpected end

  • Charleston, SC

    I loved the alphabet theme, woven through the book, which was organized into 26 chapters, one for each letter. It kept me guessing - I wasn't sure until the end whether Zelda was truly dead or alive.

  • Plaistow, NH

    Caite Dolan-Leach did a great job with this one! I got attached to the characters and was on the edge of my seat to get to the end of the "game". I couldn't wait to finish it but I was sad it was over

  • Inwood, WV

    I absolutely loved this book. The author brilliantly keeps you on your toes throughout the entire read. I found myself trying to solve the mystery with the main character and I was unable to. 5 stars.

  • Melbourne, FL

    This book was a refreshing change from the normal drama. Impeccable writing, unforeseeable twists, love and heartache abound. Family dynamics vs. self at it's finest. I am keeping this one for sure.

  • Yonkers , NY

    I really liked this book,I think the term "slow burn is very accurate",but I def could have gone without the 500 descriptions of hangovers,wine,& drunken character. The ending is somewhat predictable.

  • Bronx, NY

    The book i thought started off a little slow, but then picked up and it was a fascinating adventure Zelda had led you on. Every page of the book had you thinking every possibility the outcome can be.

  • Mount Airy , MD

    I really liked the play on the alphabet throughout the book. It definitely kept me guessing! I am not the type to read ahead, but this book really made me want to flip to the end to see what happened!

  • Yorkville , IL

    This books was very well written and fun to read. It kept me on a rollercoaster of emotions from A-Z!! I was so into the cleverness that I failed to catch on what would happen until the end, I cried.

  • Millersville , MD

    WOW! I absolutely loved this book. I read a lot of novels that leave me in suspense but this one really threw me for a loop. The plot was well thought out, as were the relationships between characters

  • Waukesha, WI

    I really enjoyed the premise of this book and how it kept you going back and forth about what was really going on. The ending was definitely a twist that I had thought about- good story about family.

  • Grand Junction, CO

    As someone who is not into mysteries, I could not put this book down. This story had such darkness, creativity, and familial malice that I found it so relate able! There was such beautiful dark humor.

  • Midland , TX

    Wow. Wholly creative and captivating. Just when I thought it was going to be predictable, more clues turned up that left me with thoroughly competing theories. A new take on a murder mystery for sure.

  • Lake Havasu City, AZ

    Omg I am in LOVE. It keeps you guessing till the very end and even then you think maybe your wrong. It shows the true depth in which you can know someone and how deep you you have to get to know yours

  • Chicago, IL

    That ending though! Once I got into the story and the the mystery I just had to power through. The author clearly had this novel well planned from the start and that's not always the case. Read this!!

  • Riverside, IL

    I really enjoyed the different storyline on this book. It really kept me guessing and, it was nice that I wasn't able to guess the ending. I loved her writing style. Can't wait to read her next book.


    I devoured this book with an insane need to solve Zelda's game. It starts off a little slow and definitely wasn't what I was expecting at first, but once you get into the meat of the story it picks up

  • Federal Heights, CO

    Amazing Baffling Creative Disastrous Engaging Feminine Harmonized Jarring Kindhearted Lovable Memorizing Narrative Overt Puzzling Relatable Succulent Tragic Unusual Vivacious Wild Xenial Yummy Zealous

  • Gilbert, AZ

    The story was great! I was still trying to solve the mystery all the way until the end. I was touched by the characters back story and enjoyed the way it unfolded in memories. I've already recommended

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