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Dead Letters: A Novel Hardcover – February 21, 2017
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“[Caite] Dolan-Leach writes like Paula Hawkins by way of Curtis Sittenfeld.”—Amy Gentry, author of Good as Gone
“A sharp, wrenching tale of the true love only twins know . . . Dolan-Leach nimbly entwines the clever mystery of Agatha Christie, the wit of Dorothy Parker, and the inebriated Gothic of Eugene O’Neill.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A smart, dazzling mystery . . . Dolan-Leach revels in toying with both Ava and her audience . . . and the result is captivating.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Draws you in like you are part of the story itself, living and breathing alongside the compelling characters as they uncover the dark secrets of their complicated family.”—Wendy Walker, author of All Is Not Forgotten
“Push-pull tension . . . This book is wine-soaked yet lucid, comforting and frightening, asking the big questions about intimacy and loyalty.”—Caroline Kepnes, author of You
“Dolan-Leach’s clever thriller explores the fraying ties that bind twin sisters. . . . Readers will enjoy this full-bodied novel about a family of vintners.”—The New York Times Book Review
“The disappearance of Ava’s wild-child twin is just the beginning of this roller-coaster read that’s as enthralling as it is WTF?!”—Cosmopolitan
“[An] atmospheric debut.”—Entertainment Weekly (“The Must List”)
“We do love a good mystery, and Dolan-Leach’s debut novel is a prime example of the form. . . . Dead Letters centers around the most dysfunctional of families, and reading it feels like embarking on a literary scavenger hunt that you never want to end.”—Nylon
“Dolan-Leach’s debut reads like an Agatha Christie novel set in a world with internet access. . . . The action unfolds with a kind of playful theatricality and cleverness that is totally and utterly engrossing.”—i-D (Vice)
“Considering questions of identity, loyalty, and reliance, Dolan-Leach’s tautly crafted crime debut will resonate with fans of Gillian Flynn’s and Paula Hawkins’s domestic psychological thrillers.”—Booklist
“Dolan-Leach’s debut is a smart, dazzling mystery with a twist that not only shines a new light on the novel’s title but also leaves the reader hunting for the next clue. Dolan-Leach revels in toying with both Ava and her audience, placing small hints and red herrings throughout her text, and the result is captivating.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A smart and twisty thriller that will keep you guessing right up to the ending.”—PopSugar
About the Author
Caite Dolan-Leach is a writer and literary translator. She was born in the Finger Lakes region and is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and the American University in Paris. Dead Letters is her first novel.
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This debut novel has absolutely everything and is one I’ll be recommending to just about everyone I know for a long time.
Dysfunctional families, alcoholism, degenerative illness, twins
What I Loved:
- It’s rare that I find a book I can comfortably categorize as “literary” AND “brain candy.” These are my favorite kinds of books to discover and are the ones I feel like I can recommend to anyone at any time. Dead Letters is the first book I’ve read in awhile that fits this description.
- I knew within the first two paragraphs that I would love this book. Ava’s voice spoke to me immediately and I would later discover the crackling dialogue and snarky, occasionally morbid humor that’s right up my alley.
"He has rented a flashy convertible, of course. My dad likes to travel in style, regardless of finances, seemliness, tact. He tends to think of any economic restriction as a dead-letter issue, a rule that does not apply to him."
- It’s a mystery and a dysfunctional family novel (two of my favorite things) all wrapped up into one ball of alcohol-soaked perfection. There is a crime, but it’s not the center of the story. Rather, it’s a device that helps unravel the twisted dynamics of Zelda and Ava’s relationship (and their relationship with their parents), which is what this book is truly about. And I can add it to my list of winning novels that have a “crime that is not the center of the story” (My Sunshine Away, Every Last One, and Only Love Can Break Your Heart).
- Dead Letters has almost all of my favorite fiction elements: a perfectly paced plot, a dysfunctional family, a mystery, great writing, snarky humor, and depth. I don’t think I’ve come across a novel as jam packed with elements that are so firmly in my wheelhouse in quite a while.
- It’s a book that is fun, yet dark and morbid at the same time. There is a delightfully demented scavenger hunt that strings the reader right along for the ride, yet death and loss permeates the entire story.
- There’s a sly Friday Night Lights reference!
- This is a book that you just need to pick up and read. Don’t bother learning a ton about the plot beforehand…going in blind adds to the fun.
What I Didn’t Like
- I HATE the cover and am not a huge fan of the title. Both make Dead Letters look like it will be type of book that’s compared to Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, then inevitably doesn’t live up to either. Though Dead Letters does have some similarities, it’s it’s own kind of wonderful.
- I also think the publisher’s blurb gives away far too much information about the plot.
A Defining Quote:
"Maybe because we were twins, we sought a way to differentiate, to oh so rigorously sketch out our borders. You needed to say, to speak the ways you were different. I’m Ava, I’m the ambitious one; that’s Zelda, she’s the messy one. As though you could determine your own story, secure the ending you wanted through obsessive narration."
Good for People Who Like:
Stories about sisters (particularly twins), stories about mothers and daughters, dysfunctional families, accessible writing, unexpectedly funny, snarky humor.
Other Books You May Like:
The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (another deeply dysfunctional family novel that involves a family member returning home)
Check out my blog, Sarah's Book Shelves, for more reviews.
While some areas of the plot are underdeveloped, it was a compelling read. I look forward to continuing to read this author's work!