By: Caite Dolan- Leach
Ava: (sometime around page 200) Maybe things would be better off if we stopped drinking and popping pills?
Me: I could have told you that around page 50.
Ava returns home from studying in Paris upon hearing the news that her twin sister Zelda has died in a barn fire. Zelda has been home caring for their ill mother and trying to keep the family vineyard from failing. Upon Ava’s return she begins receiving letters from Zelda and other clues from A-Z (like the twins) that make her thing Zelda is not really dead.
In fact that this might all be a part of her twisty games.
Apart from the fact that no one in this book is very likable, save Wyatt whose a great big doormat, I enjoyed it overall. I liked the way the mystery was done and it actually did keep me guessing. At the end it really could have worked either way. This was definitely more mystery than thriller though and I’d say more family drama than anything.
And it is a super family drama. Besides Ava and Zelda’s letters you have their mother Nadine. Suffering from dementia but also serious alcoholism and angry and troubled throughout most of their lives. Their father Marlon was the dreamer who finally ditched them for a whole other family. His mother who excuses him and Zelda everything and is a bit of a busy body.
You see Zelda mainly through memories and her little game but I actually did feel for her- more so than Ava honestly. Again I felt like it could have worked either way with Zelda tragic, sad victim of circumstance or obsessive psychopath stalking the people she felt betrayed her?
(There is actual answers in this book though. I just don’t want to give away spoilers.)
Bonus points to the book for introducing me to Oulipo described on-line as writers who seek to write using constrained techniques and in the book is described somewhat as a literary movement where the writer’s like to employ mysteries and games. Which is what Ava is studying in Paris and plays a big part in her sisters merry game making. It’s definitely something I want to look into more.
I did think the end was a little rushed and the stuff with their mother felt like a bit of a loose ends tying up cop out. I also think Wyatt deserved better. But overall I enjoyed this one. It kept me guessing and I found it a really solid debut from an author I’ll likely read again.