Title: Dead Letter Office
Series: The Parish Mail Series, Parish Mail #1
Author: Kira Snyder
Publication date: January 11th 2012
Page Count: 375 (ish) pages
Age Rating: YA (brief violence and gore)
How I got my hot little hands on it: Received a free copy to review
Publisher’s page: Dead Letter Office
When Celia’s father is killed in Afghanistan, she moves with her mother to New Orleans, the city where her father grew up. Struggling to adjust and haunted by troubling dreams, Celia finds comfort in new friends like Tilly, a practicing witch, and Donovan, the son of police detective. On Halloween, bizarre supernatural occurrences rock the city. Celia meets the mysterious Luc and finds a letter, over a hundred years old, addressed to her.
The paranormal repercussions continue when Celia learns that Luc is the restless spirit of a young man murdered in 1854, only able to assume solid form at night. And then, to her shock, Celia finds that the letter, which describes the suspected murder of a man in 1870, contains uncanny parallels to the present-day death of Abel Sims, a homeless veteran.
With help from Luc, Tilly, and Donovan, Celia races to solve the murder—and the mystery of the letter—using both magical and forensic clues.
This is an Active Fiction title.
“Active fiction” is a new type of e-reading experience that allows the reader and the author to interact with each other and the text in new and different ways.
Kira has written Parish Mail like a TV series–there are over-arching mystery and romantic story arcs that extend between the episodes, while each episode has a smaller case that is presented and solved. Along the way, she asks you, the reader, to make several small decisions as you read. These choices do not impact the overarching storyline, but certain combinations “unlock” clues to the series’
In Dead Letter Office, Celia Jane Macarty and her mother are starting over in New Orleans, the birthplace of her recently deceased father and the town where her paternal grandparents still live. In her grandparents’ backyard, Celia is immediately drawn to a tall, bone-colored tree which seems to have a natural mailbox extending from its trunk. Halloween night, weird phenomena start popping up all over New Orleans – not the least of which is a letter addressed to C.J.M. and dating from 1870 appearing in the bonewood tree’s hallow. The mysterious letter plunges Celia and her recently made friends – a witch, a ghost, and the son of a police detective – into investigating a modern murder that eerily mirrors the one mentioned in the letter.
I enjoyed this book. It was a quick and straightforward read – even though it’s an Active Fiction title. There are several parts in the story where the reader gets to choose what the characters do next (and I gave the book several read-throughs to make sure I didn’t miss anything). The plot is the same throughout, as is the ending. The different choices give you different ways of getting clues, or in some cases different clues altogether, but they all ultimately lead to the same answer. Different choices also put different emphasizes on different supporting characters, but in the end the way the MC feels about them is still the same.
On the one hand, the idea of the reader making their own choices is fun and different (I’ve heard about the Choose Your Own Adventure books from back in the day, but have never had the opportunity to read one). On the other hand, I feel like the choices given made no difference since everything ends up basically the same way no matter which path you choose. This makes sense, I guess, since the next book in the series will need to start where this one ends, so all paths must lead to the same ending point.
The writing itself is great and moves smoothly and quickly and really gets the reader involved. I think this book would have been solid on its own without the need for all the Active Fiction parts. I want to read the next one in the series because I like the characters and like where the overarching storyline is going, but I’m hesitant because I don’t like the feeling of missing something (no matter how trivial) so I know I’ll have the compulsion to read all the combinations again – and the next book in the series is twice as long so I’m thinking there’ll be even more choices – which means I’ll be reading basically the same book over and over again.
Overall, I would still recommend this book on the strength of its writing and the novelty of it being an Active Fiction title, but keep in mind this type of book may not be for everyone.
Has anybody else read this type of book before? What are your thoughts on it?
One of the more interesting characters in this book (and they were all pretty interesting) is Tilly, Celia’s magically-inclined friend. Tilly lives with her Aunt Claire above her aunt’s voodoo shop in the French Quarter. The Roasterie VooDoo Dark Blend is a dark roast that’s smoky and smooth and bold, bringing to mind that rich, mystical feeling one would expect at “Beauchamp’s House of Voodoo” in the heart of New Orleans.