Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

Dead LettersDead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ava and Zelda are identical twins. Ava took off for Paris while Zelda stayed home taking care of the family vineyard in upstate New York and of their somewhat demented alcoholic mother. The book begins with Ava coming back upon learning that the barn where Zelda usually slept burned to the ground one night, presumably with her in it. The book begins slow and none of the characters are very likeable, so you may be tempted to put it down, but I recommend sticking with it. Ava drinks way too much and seems cynical, self-centered, and insensitive. Her mother is demented and her father, who returns from his second marriage out west, is irresponsible and lazy. Zelda, we learn, was the wild one of the twins, much more so than Ava. No body is found in the barn so a search begins for Zelda’s remains – or for Zelda. That’s where it gets interesting. Zelda’s Parisian boyfriend and former New York beau (who slept with Zelda after Ava split for Paris without warning) are at least somewhat likeable characters. The story is told in the first person from Ava’s viewpoint.

Although this turns into a mystery of sorts, it’s not the kind the reader can solve. The clues all require inside knowledge of Ava’s and Zelda’s past to interpret, something possessed only by Ava and Zelda. Zelda, it seems, has left a trail of clues. The mystery is unrolled step by implausible step. The author stretched a lot throughout and gave us nobody to root for, but the plot was intriguing enough to keep me interested. At the end I didn’t like any of the characters more than I did at the beginning but it did seem like a resolution.

I listened to the audiobook. The reader was a good actress but was an odd choice because her voice most of the time sounded like that of a twelve- or thirteen-year-old, not a woman in her 20s. Even more strange is the bizarre cover picture on the audiobook and hardcover (but not the Kindle). The cover is solid black and shows what looks like the disembodied head of a young boy floating over the legs of a sexy young woman in a short skirt.

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