Book review | The Fifth Letter

fifth letter

A fun vacation game turns destructive, exposing dark secrets, deeply buried grudges, and a shocking betrayal in Nicola Moriarity’s intriguing debut.

Four friends . . .

Joni, Deb, Eden, and Trina have been best friends since high school, sharing a bond that has seen them through their teenage years and into adulthood. But now, time and circumstance is starting to pull them apart as careers, husbands, and babies get in the way. As their yearly vacation becomes less of a priority—at least for three of the women—how can Joni find a way to draw the four of them back together?

Four secrets . . .

During a laughter and wine-filled night, the women dare one another to write anonymous letters, spilling their deepest, darkest secrets. But the fun game turns devastating, exposing cracks in their lives and the friendships they share. Each letter is a dark confession revealing shocking information. A troubled marriage? A substance abuse problem? A secret pregnancy? A heartbreaking diagnosis?

Five letters . . .

Late on one of their last nights together, after the other three have gone to bed, Joni notices something in the fireplace—a burnt, crumpled, nearly destroyed, sheet of paper that holds the most shattering revelation of all. It is a fifth letter—a hate-filled rant that exposes a vicious, deeply hidden grudge that has festered for decades. But who wrote it? Which one of them has seethed with resentment all these years? What should Joni do?

Best friends are supposed to keep your darkest secrets. But the revelations Joni, Deb, Eden and Trina have shared will ripple through their lives with unforeseen consequences . . . and things will never be the same.

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For a moment she looked like she might try and argue it, but then her whole body seemed to slump, as though she’d been holding on to this lie for too long.

Surprisingly this book is a lot more light-hearted than I thought it would be. I think the blurb made me imagine it being more sinister in tone than it was. I found I actually quite liked it though; there was a good balance between the light-hearted tone and the suspense in the events taking place. It made it a very compelling read, I certainly became engrossed and managed to make my way through the book quickly.

The premise is great and has elements that plenty of people would relate to, childhood friends who have grown apart due to marriage, children and a lack of time, as well as a lot of other things that crop up in relationships and in families, like miscommunication and regret. The letter writing was an intriguing concept; anonymously airing secrets is always going to make for exciting reading because you can never predict the outcome.

There were a lot of twists that I didn’t expect and I found myself in a state of constant misdirection wondering who wrote the fifth letter. There were a few occasions that the book did slow down a little for me and I felt that maybe the pacing could have been improved to keep the suspense at its highest. As I mentioned I was engrossed but there were parts I wanted to skip over so I could find out who and why.

Joni is our main narrator and at first, I thought I had a lot to relate to in her but I have to say that she very quickly became annoying and at times just a bit too over the top. It was as if she was still a teenager sometimes and no matter how I tried I just couldn’t get on side with her; I could understand her motivations but could really have done without the melodrama.

Having said that towards the end she did seem to get more palatable and any drama was justified, but it was a shame that she wasn’t like that from the start. I also had a bit of trouble with the other characters too, they just didn’t stand out enough and I didn’t really find myself as invested in their lives as I would have liked to be.

The Fifth Letter is an entertaining and fairly effortless read, it has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing and would be perfect as a lazy day book or for reading by the beach.



Thanks to Penguin Michael Joseph and Netgalley for the review copy of this book.


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