Dead Letters: A Novel
Ava Antipova’s twin sister, Zelda, is dead, burned in a suspicious barn fire that has sparked a homicide investigation. When Ava flies from Paris to her childhood home on a small, struggling vineyard in upstate New York, she’s more skeptical than grief-stricken, certain that this “death” is just one more stunt from her wild, eccentric sister. Indeed, Ava soon stumbles on a scavenger hunt planned by Zelda, which seems to prove that Zelda is far from dead–and may actually be nearby, waiting for a big reveal at her own funeral. As Ava follows clues that lead her through the alphabet, including disturbing stashes of Xanax and Vicodin for the letters X and V, her sister’s intentions grow clearer–and more shocking. She’s forced to confront the possibility that even all-knowing Zelda lacks a piece of crucial knowledge that could alter their lives forever.
The Antipovas are relentless and shameless alcoholics, and drinking winds through this novel like a character of its own. Ava’s deadpan observations of herself, her dysfunctional family, and their very obvious flaws makes for a narrative voice that pulls the story along briskly–even when it occasionally sags under the somewhat onerous task of introducing, searching for, and explaining an alphabet’s worth of clues from beyond the grave.