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Watch Her Fall


Watch Her Fall

Although not a book about ballet, this setting begins at the London Russian Ballet world tour launch of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s composition, specifically the 1895 revival version of “Swan Lake,” perhaps the most renowned ballet. This is a tale of intrigue, deceit, blackmail, the essence of being human…and those dedicated to the performing arts.

Following 2019’s WE KNOW YOU KNOW (aka STONE MOTHERS), the astounding WATCH HER FALL has more psychological twists and turns than a triple set of fouettés en tournant, crowning Erin Kelly the Queen of Psych Suspense.

"[T]he astounding WATCH HER FALL has more psychological twists and turns than a triple set of fouettés en tournant, crowning Erin Kelly the Queen of Psych Suspense."

The emotional range required to perform the roles of virginal white swan Odette and sly dark swan Odile (“a vamp in black lace”) is onerous, somewhat like a single chess champion strategizing both White and Black. Since the clashing ballet personalities never contemporaneously appear on stage, they’re performed by one ballerina. In this case, London Russian’s Ava Kirilova, daughter of the academy’s founder, Nikolai Kirilov, known to the dancers as Mr K. “Sometimes, it frightened her, how easily she could become someone else.”

Austere ballet master “Nicky” had defected the Soviet Union and now houses many in an academy dubbed the Gulag. Mr K deems himself the creator and his “swans” creatures, fourscore ballerinas who would kill to dance the dual roles of Odette and Odile. “Nicky Kirilov makes puppets of young women, including his own daughter. Isn’t that exactly what Von Rothbart does with Odile?” Kirilov seems “more like a cult leader than a ballet teacher.” Ava’s “spotlight was a shining cage,” keeping her safe. Or not.

A “second swan” portrays Odette fluttering outside a stage window, as Ava performs Odile’s seductress dance for Prince Siegfried. Ava can’t recall names of the individual “creatures” but tells that swan (Janine? Jeanette? Lynette? “Something in that name family”) to dance through the pain, to dire consequence: a career-ending knee injury. The lame-duck swan is stashed in Ava’s swanky dacha situated in a London gated community with its own security force, whose owners rarely, if ever, visit their pejorative McMansions.

Although three characters provide viewpoints, identifying any is akin to drinking spoiled milk. Like Russian Matryoshka dolls that fit one inside others, two Ukrainian defectors perform a devious pas de deux on a stage littered with metaphoric landmines. Even the metaphors in this spectacular suspense novel are like babushka dolls concealed within larger wombs.

Fans may note a subtle parallel to Biba’s “residence” (an organic component of a concrete foundation) in THE POISON TREE, Kelly’s phenomenal debut, which became a major British independent TV drama.

In addition to titles identified in this biography, Kelly (deemed the Monarch of Dark Fiction by Bookreporter) was a freelance journalist for The Sunday Times, Guardian, Cosmopolitan, Daily Mail, New Statesman, Elle and others. She shares life in hometown London with husband Michael and their progeny. Erin Kelly is my all-time favorite author.

» Click here to read our interview with Erin Kelly.

Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on December 3, 2021

Watch Her Fall
by Erin Kelly