Dead Letters ~by Caite Dolan-Leach

Ahoy, Ava! Welcome home, my sweet jet-setting twin! So glad you were able to wrest yourself away from your dazzling life in the City of Light; I hope my death hasn’t interrupted anything too crucial.

Ava Antipova has her reasons for running away: a failing family vineyard, a romantic betrayal, a mercurial sister, an absent father, a mother slipping into dementia. In Paris, Ava renounces her terribly practical undergraduate degree, acquires a French boyfriend and a taste for much better wine, and erases her past. Two years later, she must return to upstate New York. Her twin sister, Zelda, is dead.

Even in a family of alcoholics, Zelda Antipova was the wild one, notorious for her mind games and destructive behavior. Stuck tending the vineyard and the girls increasingly unstable mother, Zelda was allegedly burned alive when she passed out in the barn with a lit cigarette. But Ava finds the official explanation a little too neat. A little too Zelda. Then she receives a cryptic message from her sister.

Just as Ava suspected, Zelda’s playing one of her games. In fact, she’s outdone herself, leaving a series of clues about her disappearance. With the police stuck on a red herring, Ava follows the trail laid just for her, thinking like her sister, keeping her secrets, immersing herself in Zelda’s drama and her outlandish circle of friends and lovers. Along the way, Zelda forces her twin to confront their twisted history and the boy who broke Ava’s heart. But why? Is Zelda trying to punish Ava for leaving, or to teach her a lesson? Or is she simply trying to write her own ending?

Featuring a colorful, raucous cast of characters, Caite Dolan-Leach’s debut thriller takes readers on a literary scavenger hunt for clues concealed throughout the seemingly idyllic wine country, hidden in plain sight on social media, and buried at the heart of one tremendously dysfunctional, utterly unforgettable family.

Ok, after going around and around in circles saying the same thing over and over, I decided I’m going to keep this review short and sweet and say everything I need to say in four points. Ready?

  • I didn’t know if Zelda was alive or dead until the very end and loved the suspense the not-knowing created throughout the story.
  • The “method to her madness”, the clues, was completely lost on me until it slapped me in the face.  So. Clever!
  • Dolan-Leach clearly is a lover of language, and her use of big and uncommon words not only worked perfectly with this cast of characters, but was also an enjoyable change of pace. (Full disclosure: I had to get out my dictionary a couple of times, but considering my love of referencing the dictionary, this was a total treat for me.)
  • I was sucked in from the first page of this book and had an intense love/hate relationship with all of the characters. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good mystery, a build-up of suspense, and unreliable narrators (a glass or six of Chardonnay anyone?).


Purchase links: Barnes & NobleAmazon

About the Author (from her website):

Caite Dolan-Leach is a writer and literary translator. She was born in the Finger Lakes and is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and the American University in Paris. Dead Letters is her first novel.

Find her online: WebsiteFacebookInstagram


Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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