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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

"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 ratings (4,838)

  • Cindy R.

    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.

  • Sonya M.

    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.

  • Allison K.

    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.

  • Amanda D.

    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!!

  • Amanda B.

    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.