Title: “The Fifth Letter”
Author: Nicola Moriarty
Genre: Women’s fiction
Publication Date: Jan. 24, 2017 (William Morrow)
My Rating: ★★★☆☆
Ah, to see the “Moriarty” last name stamped on a new novel. I adore author Nicola’s sister Liane (the Queen of All who requires no introduction), which in and of itself was enough to push me into this book’s waiting pages. But I was intrigued by the premise, too. (It’s not a name game only over here!)
Four best friends, who came together in high school and are now in their mid-30s, reunite for their annual girls’ getaway. Joni, the primary narrator, is desperately clinging onto the once ultra-close connection she feels sliding out of her grasp. Because what could go wrong (nothing! nothing ever goes wrong!), the girls reluctantly agree to Joni’s idea of a re-bonding game: They’ll each write an anonymous letter sharing the secrets in their lives, and then they’ll read and dissect one out loud on each remaining night of their trip.
Things get interesting with each letter, but the big-deal plot turning point here is that Joni finds a fifth, extra letter in the fireplace one night. And why would a piece of paper be thrown to the flames? To hide the author’s hateful, even murderous (I want to suffocate you with a pillow) feelings toward one of her “friends,” of course.
Cue the tailspin as Joni scrambles to figure out who wrote the letter and all falls to pieces.
I enjoyed the plot, and the end had some good moments — but it’s a mostly forgettable, quick read. Nicola is trying too hard to be like her sister — the plot, centered around four strong women characters, reads like a second-rate Liane knock-off. It’s exactly a book Liane would write (except she’d do it much better). One of the kids in the book, Ruby, even borrows a name from Liane’s “Truly Madly Guilty.” And there’s an end-of-the-book dramatic scene at the pool that screams every Liane book I’ve ever read.
Still, if you don’t go into it with high expectations, you’ll enjoy it for what it is: some fun, not particularly memorable entertainment.