As Nell Craine had said in The Haunting of Hillhouse, “It’s a twin-thing.” But what on Earth is the twin-thing? According to myth, it’s an invisible bond that twins at birth had always shared. In the case of Caite Dolan-Leach’s debut novel, Dead Letters, twins Ava and Zelda Antipova proved these words to be true. When Ava lives life in Paris, she receives an email from her estranged mother, Nadine, that her twin sister had passed away in a fire. However, Ava isn’t convinced that Zelda isn’t dead, and if she is, it doesn’t seem like her sister’s way to go. She is forced to return home to try to clean up the mess that Zelda had created, only learning all of the dark secrets that her sister had left and the game she had left behind.
The book was published back in 2017 and fell in similar mystery tropes of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. A mysterious and manipulative woman suddenly goes missing or is murdered and our protagonist is set to reveal this person’s dark past. Dead Letters establishes it’s character’s well in its themes. In Dead Letters, it is established that the Antipova is involved in the winery business. The characters are cold cynics who sip on wine, which is a prominent theme throughout the novel. If you have a cynical mind as I do, the characters may be somewhat relatable. However, I feel this reflects on the amount of wine that they drink. If we want to look at the symbolic meaning behind the red wine that the characters continuously consume, we can compare that to the bond between Ava and Zelda. Red wine is like blood in this case of the twins; it’s bitter, dark, and rich. Dolan-Leach manages to drive the plot through the twists and turns on the path that Zelda sends her sister on. It makes you wonder exactly what happened to Zelda; is she actually dead? What is it that she wants Ava to know? It’s hooking and like the red wine, a little dry at times.
Dead Letters does have its flaws in which the plot is somewhat predictable in turn of events. I won’t say much because I don’t want to spoil anything. But, it’s disappointing in which you want to expect the unexpected, but the novel doesn’t achieve that. The characters are loveable, but what about if they went on a much darker, more thrilling path? That would have driven the story further and hook in even more readers.
Would I recommend Dead Letters to others? I definitely would. The author sets the tone of the novel well and with the true, believable characters that some of us can relate on. It’s well written for her first novel and we get the chance to learn who Zelda is through the game that Ava goes through. We get to know the raw and dark human side of the twins and how they relate to one another. Even though it was published two years ago, it is still something that I believe everyone should get their hands on. It’s a gripping, dark, mystery that I highly recommend to anyone.