The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty
Published February 20, 2017 by Harper Collins
Rating: 4 stars
From the blurb: Joni, Deb, Eden and Trina try to catch up once a year for some days away together. Now in their thirties, commitments have pulled them in different directions, and the closeness they once enjoyed growing up seems increasingly elusive. This year, determined to revive their intimacy, they each share a secret in an anonymous letter to be read out during the holiday. But instead of bringing them closer, the revelations seem to drive them apart. Then a fifth letter is discovered, venting long-held grudges, and it seems that one of the women is in serious danger. But who was the author? And which of them should be worried?
The Fifth Letter is Nicole Moriarty's third novel. Set in Sydney, the story follows a group of women in their mid-thirties. Joni, Deb, Trin, and Eden have been friends since they were twelve years old. Joni was the one who picked them out of her homeroom class and the girls have remained close for the past twenty-three years. Lately they've drifted apart and Joni feels as though she's the only one who cares. Determined to reconnect, she arranges another of their annual holidays, but the appearance of a threatening letter changes everything.
Told over multiple time lines, I found The Fifth Letter completely captivating. The flashbacks to 1993 perfectly captured high school in the 90s, and highlighted how the group dynamic first started. Joni's confessional conversations were a humorous touch, and the main plot line was a realistic look at the way friendships shift and develop over time. Even between close friends there can be rivalries, grudges, pettiness, and I'm sure readers will be able to relate to aspects of what the girls go through.
Each of the four main characters felt equally well developed, and though I favoured Joni, I liked that she wasn't perfect, she had flaws and secrets, just like the other three.
I found myself intrigued from the moment the fifth letter was printed, and that curiosity only grew over the course of the story. One minute I'd be sure I knew which letter belonged to each girl and who had written the fifth letter, and then something else would be revealed and my certainty would vanish. The plot, the twists, and the conclusion were all cleverly thought out and kept me guessing until the end.
Ableist language: idiot, crazy, insane, lame.
The Fifth Letter is a compelling mystery with a strong focus on the bonds formed between girls and women. The story is perfectly paced, surprising, and touching. I found it hard to put down and would highly recommend it to adults and older YA readers, too.
International readers: The Fifth Letter is also available in the USA and UK.