Dead Letters

Random. Mar. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9780399588853. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780399588860. F
OrangeReviewStarAva Antipova can't believe that her twin sister, Zelda, is dead. Twenty months after fleeing to Paris, Ava is stunned by news that Zelda died in a barn fire on the family's failing vineyard in Upstate New York; but ambitious Ava—Zelda was the messy and impulsive one—never felt the loss of her twin. So Ava returns to her family home and to her divorced mother, Nadine, whose alcoholism and dementia continually worsen. She also comes back to memories of betrayal involving her sister and her first love, Wyatt Darling, which was a factor in causing her to leave. Then an email from Zelda starts Ava on an alphabetical puzzle to discover not only Zelda's whereabouts but also truths about herself.
VERDICT Dolan-Leach's fiction debut is a compelling mystery with only hints of murder (because the barn doors were chained shut from the outside) that centers on family and particularly on the power of genetics, sisterhood, and loss. A story as compassionate and insightful as it is riveting. [See Prepub Alert, 9/26/16.]
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