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September 12, 2016

Review: The Letterbox by Layton Green #MondayBlogs

by Donna Huber

cover of The Letterbox
Fans of Dan Brown will want to crisscross Europe in search of the secrets of The Letterbox, Layton Green's exciting new thriller.

I fell in love with Green's writing with the Dominic Grey series (actually I fell in love with Dominic Grey, but the stories are great too). His stories are always filled with intricate intrigue that keeps the reader turning the pages. While The Letterbox is not in the Grey series, it is still a superb mystery that will have the reader questioning everything, even long after turning the last page.

Deep in the moors of England, a mysterious box is unearthed and immediately whisked away. Mr. Sofistere, a dealer of religious artifacts and other antiques, is tasked with identifying and authenticating this letterbox. There are unusual markings on the box which leads him to call in linguistic expert Lou. When Lou goes to the consultation his best friend Aiden (I'm not sure if these two characters are ever given last names in the story) tags along. What at they find is most intriguing and soon they find themselves on an adventure of a lifetime. Along they way they are joined by Asha, Mr. Sofister's assistant and eventual love interest of Aiden, and Jake a Catholic religion scholar.

It is noted that Lou is an atheist, Asha a spiritualist (she was a medium as a child), and Jake is a devout Catholic. However, the story is told in first person by Aiden who is lost in life. He doesn't know what he believes or what purpose his life has. He is unhappy with his life as a well-to-do corporate lawyer. By all accounts, he should be loving his life. But he feels like life is going in circles. So while all the characters are searching for something: Lou the next great scholarly pursuit, Asha answers to her lost powers and healing from the past, Jake a deeper faith and healing from the past, it is Aiden's journey that provides the most insight. He doesn't know what to believe, but he knows there is something bigger. His journey probably mirrors more closely that which most of the readers of The Letterbox would travel. In several places, readers can put themselves in Aiden's shoes.

Bone Church
Chandelier at Bone Church in Kutna Hora.
photo credit: Donna Huber
This self-identifying main character is just one way Green draws the reader inside the pages of the novel. Another is the incredible details of the places visited. Often, I just have to rely on the author doing his homework about the places described, but for at least one site the characters visit I have also been there. When the map on the letterbox reveals a place in Prague, my first thought was I bet they wind up in Kunta Hora. There's this cool ossuary known commonly as the Bone Church. During the plague, there were so many deaths that there weren't enough places for the bodies. One person made fixtures out of these bones. There's a chandelier made completely out of human bones. It's creepy and the perfect place for this book to take place.
There were bones everywhere: draping the walls, framing the archways, hanging from the ceiling, adorning the furnishings, comprising the furnishings. Statues of bones, candelabras of bones, portraits of bone, Catholic accoutrements carved from bone. pg. 165
Kutna Hora
Walkway in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
photo credit: Donna Huber
I visited Kutna Hora when I was in Europe several years ago and the descriptions in The Letterbox matched my own recollections. Even just this short sentences immediately brought the picture to my mind.
The next afternoon we huddled on wooden benches in front of the hotel, sipping coffee across the street from a sprawling Gothic cathedral with a statute-lined terrace. pg. 170

Given all this attention to detail, I was having trouble placing the time the story was taking place. In some ways it seemed that it was taking place several years ago as the technology seemed dated. None of them carried a laptop or seemed to have a smart phone. Then there was a mention of using francs in France. The franc was discontinued in 2002 when it France converted to the EURO. So I was thinking late 1990s/early 2000s. But then when they are in Kutna Hora, they gave the man 100 EURO. The Czech Republic still uses the Czech Crown. I was reading an advance copy so perhaps this detail was corrected in the final version.

But that is about the only complaint I had with the story. I wondered had one of the characters been a protestant believer instead of Catholic, how things might have been different. The ending left me with a number of questions, as it did for our narrator Aiden. While as many strings were tied up as was probably possible with a first person narrative, I felt like the story wasn't fully resolved. And in a way I think that might have been Green's intention. I think he wanted to leave the reader asking what really happened?

The Letterbox reminded me a lot of how I felt while reading The Da Vinci Code, but I think The Letterbox was better written. And long-time fans of Layton Green are going to love his new book.

Buy The Letterbox at Amazon

Donna Huber, founder & publisher. Donna is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

Book info:
available formats: ebook and print (366 pages)
published: September 2016
ISBN13: 978-1535001298
genres: mystery, thriller
a free book was provided by the author for this review

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  1. Green's books sound amazing! I love a good suspenseful read.

  2. You pulled me in on the Bone Church. I may never get to Kutna Hora, travelling there in a good book is the next best thing!