07 January 2022

Murder in Second Position: An On Pointe Mystery by Lori Robbins Book Tour and Giveaway!

Murder in Second Position: An On Pointe Mystery by Lori Robbins

About Murder in Second Position

 

Murder in Second Position: An On Pointe Mystery 

Cozy Mystery 2nd in Series Level Best Books (November 23, 2021)

Paperback ‏ : ‎ 258 pages 

ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1685120210 

ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1685120214 Kindle 

ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09FM1JTFL 

Ballerina Leah Siderova belongs onstage. Not in an interrogation room at Manhattan’s Twentieth Precinct. And yet, for the second time in less than a year, that’s where she has a starring role. It wasn’t her fault someone killed the autocratic new director of the American Ballet Company. And it wasn’t her job to find the killer.

 

Leah is determined to stay as far away as possible from the murder investigation. After all, if she were going to kill someone, it would have been the woman who’s been relentlessly trolling her on social media. And that’s where things get complicated. Because when dancers say “ballet can be murder” they don’t mean it literally.  Most of the time.

 Murder in Second Position

CHAPTER 1

And hand in hand, at the edge of the sand / They danced by the light of the moon.

—Edward Lear


I belong onstage. Not in an interrogation room at Manhattan’s Twentieth Precinct. And yet, for the second time in less than a year, that’s where I had a starring role. As part of my official statement, I’d like to go on the record to confirm this simple fact: When dancers say, “ballet can be murder,” they’re speaking metaphorically. Most of the time. More to the point, if I were going to kill someone, it would have been Savannah Collier.

Earlier, on that snowy day in February, I was at a routine rehearsal for Swan Lake. As I stretched my legs and ignored the growling noises from my stomach, I observed my fellow dancers jockey for position. They were trying to make a good impression on Pavel Baron, the new director of the company. He stalked several unlucky women, telegraphing either his disapproval or his predatory sexual interest.

After a large group of dancers exited and gave way to a lovely waltz for two swans, Olivia Blackwell plopped down next to me. As we watched the dancers jump and pirouette, I readied myself for the last scene, the Swan Queen’s dramatic suicidal plunge. It suited my dark mood.

I took a few deep breaths, wishing my practice tutu weren’t quite so tight. Tragic swan queens had no business gaining weight, and I was self-conscious about recent dietary indiscretions regarding salted caramel chocolates. The music deepened, foreshadowing the coming tragedy.

I said, half to Olivia and half to myself, “Have you ever thought about how many ballets deal with death?”

Olivia, still breathing heavily from her recent exertions, mopped her face and neck. “I hadn’t thought about it, but yeah. Murder, suicide, and the ever-popular death via a broken heart. Those are the best dramatic roles.”

“If you’re lucky, some emotional audience member will heave a loud sigh or groan. That’s always gratifying. There’s nothing like a corpse in a tiara to bring them to their feet.”

She turned down the corners of her mouth. “That’s true for you, Leah. But at this point in my career, the only way I’m going to get to die onstage is if it’s a mass slaughter of errant swans, or peasant girls, or village maidens.”

I gave her a consoling pat on the back. “I know it’s hard. But be patient. Very soon, you’ll be the one getting those curtain calls. You’re a terrific dancer, and your time will come.”

I waited for a response, but she just sat there and watched the swans. I tried again to cheer her up. “You’re understudying lots of big roles now, which is a good sign.”

Her glum expression remained unchanged. Time for drastic action.

I grabbed her shoulders. “Maybe you’ll have a 42nd Street moment. You know, like, ‘you’re going out a youngster, but you’ve gotta come back a star!’”

She finally smiled, then left me to join the rest of the corps de ballet. They took their places for the last scene, and as the music rose to a dramatic crescendo I fluttered in, exactly on cue, and pretended to die. My partner yawned twice, before Pavel’s sharp look jolted him back into his role as a heartbroken prince. Five minutes later we were done. Pavel pointedly tapped his watch. It was a rather raggedy run-through, and the rehearsal mistress probably had a pile of corrections, but no one except Pavel dared flout the strict rehearsal schedule.

I pulled off my pointe shoes to give my feet a brief moment of freedom and eyed the youngest dancers. “Tell me about the new kids on the block. Are the girls still catty and ruthless? Or has the corps de ballet become a kinder and gentler place?”

Olivia frowned. “I don’t know about kinder or gentler, because I don’t have much to compare it to. Some dancers are straight up awful. But nearly everyone pretends to be nice, although I’m sure most of my so-called friends would stick a knife in my back if they thought it would help them.”

I suppressed a shiver when she mentioned a knife in the back. The memory of last season’s murder still gave me nightmares. “I guess some things never change.”

Olivia took out a protein bar. I longed to do the same, but I was saving my calories for the evening. Over the heavenly smell of peanut butter she said, “We’re kinder in our language, if not always in our private sentiments.” She laughed. “I’m not putting myself on a pedestal, by the way. I’m like all the rest. I wouldn’t hesitate to do the same to them.”

As we walked down the hallway to the next rehearsal we spoke softly, despite the hum of many voices.  Gossip was the breath of life in our hothouse world, and scheming rivals with friendly faces were all around. After Gabi Acevedo retired I found myself without a trusted confidante, until Olivia came along to fill that void.

Bobbie York, our costume mistress, was not nearly as circumspect. As we ambled toward Studio D, she militantly pushed past us. Her angry threats included several graphic images that paired Pavel’s face and an ice pick.

I let her pass without comment. To put it diplomatically, she and I were no longer friendly. A few months ago, she accused me of seducing her husband and committing murder, which can put some serious strain on a relationship. The fact that I was exonerated on both counts did nothing to quench her anger. Paradoxically, it infuriated her even more. The safest way to handle her volcanic temper was to ignore her, although that too had its perils.

Olivia, who was young in the ways of our world, walked more quickly to keep up with her. “What has Pavel done now?”

Bobbie stopped short to face us, and, with some effort, unclenched her teeth. “That miserable excuse for a ballet master has installed a corporate stuffed shirt in my costume department. As if any of those frat boys from Artistic Solutions knows a single wretched thing about costumes or props.” Bobbie put air quotes around the word “Artistic” to indicate her disdain for the pretentions, and the name, of our new commercial and multinational overlord.

Olivia put her hand on Bobbie’s arm. “Pavel said there was going to be a period of adjustment. I’m sure it will all work out. He’s only been here a few months. Give him some time.”

Bobbie removed Olivia’s delicate hand with a thumb and forefinger, looking at it with the same antipathy one might feel upon finding an invasive, gelatinous, alien life form taking root.

“Wise up, Sunshine. You and all your clueless ballerina friends are not what I would call rocket science material. Go back to your pink and sparkly dream world. I’m too old to kid myself. These people are ruthless.”

This was too much for me. “Get real, Bobbie. No one is more coldblooded than you, unless it’s Pavel. He’s hired and fired a dozen people in the last few months. Sit tight, be patient, and suck it up like the rest of us. And speaking of Pavel, how do you know he’s the one who hired your stuffed shirt? Maybe it was Darius Kemble. He didn’t get to be the head of Artistic Solutions by giving out lollipops and rosebuds.”

She could barely contain her scorn. “I don’t care if Moses himself handed me commandments about ordering fabric. Kemble may know how to run a business, but we are not a business.”

She brushed a few specks of lint from her sleeve, as if flicking me away with it. “It will be a cold day in hell before I take advice from you, Leah. You haven’t learned a thing in the last ten years.  Or has it been fifteen or twenty? Hard to keep track after so long.”

Bobbie emphasized my age to be mean, but she spoke the simple, if painful, truth. I am a thirty-something ballerina, with a surgically reconstructed knee and a limited professional future. After she marched down the hallway, I turned back to Olivia. “I see Bobbie has lost none of her charm and joie de vivre. But as much as I hate to admit it, maybe she’s got the right idea. We’re all trying to make nice with the new management company, and they’re walking all over us. We probably should push back. Maybe if we did, Darius Kemble and his loathsome Artistic Solutions gang would already be a distant memory. Like those self-help gurus who gave us exercises to help us love ourselves.” I couldn’t help laughing, remembering how one of them, in an attempt to ingratiate himself with Pavel, told our ballet director he was exceptionally gifted at loving himself. He didn’t last long.

Olivia didn’t answer me. She wordlessly pointed to the daily rehearsal schedule, which was posted on a bulletin board. Those printouts, with their handwritten notes, were the sole holdovers of life in American Ballet Company before Artistic Solutions digitized us. In the square marked Dworkin/New Ballet, Olivia’s name was crossed off the cast list. She had been demoted to understudy, her name in parentheses.

I was still on the schedule as one of the lead dancers, but I too had been downgraded. Our guest artist from London was still in the first cast. She would dance on opening night, at the gala, and on weekends. I expected no less. But I was now third in line to dance in the new ballet, behind a lower-ranked dancer. This was a very deliberate humiliation. I’d be lucky to get a few matinees and, perhaps, a single weeknight performance.

Like the other principal dancers in the company, I was used to being shoved aside for a glitzier, more high-profile international star. What really stung, though, was seeing a dancer from the corps de ballet placed ahead of me. Kerry Blair was talented; that was undeniable. I preferred to remain silent regarding her conniving, spiteful, mean, and selfish nature.

My demotion was humiliating, as well as disappointing. Pavel might as well have installed a flashing sign proclaiming his intention to push me out of the company. From a public relations perspective, which was the only one that mattered, it was easier to downgrade and embarrass a dancer until she voluntarily left than it was to fire her outright. My modest but devoted fan club would spring to my defense if Pavel refused to renew my contract.

Olivia was bitter. “What was it that Bobbie said about Pavel? I’m beginning to understand how she feels. If I had the chance, I too would beat him about the face and neck.”

I checked the rest of the schedule before answering. “Don’t forget about stabbing him where his heart should be. That was my favorite part.” Forgetting discretion, I added, “Pavel Baron has to go. One way or another. The man is pure poison.”


About Lori Robbins

Brooklyn-born Lori Robbins began dancing at age 16 and launched her professional career three years later. She studied modern dance at the Martha Graham School and ballet at the New York Conservatory of Dance. Robbins performed with a number of dance companies, including Ballet Hispanico, the Des Moines Ballet, and the St. Louis Concert Ballet. After ten very lean years as a dancer she attended Hunter College, graduating summa cum laude with a major in British Literature and a minor in Classics.

The opening book in her On Pointe Mystery Series, Murder in First Position, won the Indie Book Award for Best Mystery, was a finalist for a Silver Falchion, and is currently on the short list for a Mystery & Mayhem Book Award. 

Murder in Second Position will be released November 23, 2021. Her debut mystery, Lesson Plan for Murder, won the Silver Falchion for Best Cozy Mystery and was a finalist in the Readers’ Choice and Indie Book Awards. It will be re-released in June 2022. 

She authored two short stories in 2021: “Accidents Happen” in Mystery Most Diabolical, and “Leading Ladies” in Justice for All. She is an expert in the homicidal impulses everyday life inspires.

Author Links 

Purchase Link - Amazon 

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