Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach
Rating: 3 stars
I normally love mysteries, but I couldn’t really get into this novel. The premise is definitely interesting and right up my alley. Ava is called back to her eccentric family’s winery because of her twin sister Zelda’s death, only to start receiving emails from her twin. Is her sister really dead? If not, what type of game is she playing? Considering Zelda always had a flair for the dramatic and macabre, Ava should be very worried.
This turned out to be much more of a family drama than a suspense novel, though, even though it did have a solid mystery plot. Are the email’s really from Zelda? Did she kill herself, was she murdered, or did she fake her own death? If the answer to any of those is yes, then why? Ava has to try to unravel the mystery behind her sister’s disappearance before she loses Zelda for good. However, Zelda may also be using this as a chance to punish her for leaving. If that’s the case then Ava is in trouble, because there is nothing her sister won’t do to prove her point.
The mystery plot was actually pretty engaging, but it kept taking a back seat to the family drama that Ava steps into as soon as she lands in New York. Ava’s family was so dysfunctional that about halfway through I cheered for her getting the hell out of there. I hated how everyone else in the novel thought she was acting like a child for separating herself from the crazy mess her mother, father, and sister created and/or indulged. Maybe that’s also why I couldn’t get into the novel. Ava clearly needed to get away from her family. Every relationship was unhealthy for her. Her father walked out on her and left the minute things got hard, her mother never showed any warmth or love and drove her to bulimia, and her grandmother made sure she knew she would always be second to Zelda. Granted, Zelda faced these dynamics as well, but just because she stayed doesn’t mean Ava should feel guilty for finally getting out of there.
While this was an engaging, quick read, I wish it had either stayed a family drama (which I probably would have avoided) or decided to fully commit to be a suspense/mystery novel. Straddling both left it unsatisfying.