by Cate Holahan
Release Date: November 15th 2015
2015 Crooked Lane Books
Hardcover Edition; 336 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Murder / Suspense
Source: Review copy from Meryl Moss Media
3.5 / 5 Stars
Nia Washington is an
incredibly talented ballerina. She fought her way up from the streets
and was nearing the pinnacle of her profession when an injury and a
broken heart derailed her career. Taking a temporary job at an elite
boarding school was supposed to give her time to nurse both body and
soul. It was supposed to be a safe place to launch a triumphant
comeback. It is anything but.
Shortly after she arrives at the
beautiful lakeside campus, she discovers the body of a murdered student,
and her life takes a truly dark turn. It’s not long before she is drawn
into a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with a ruthless killer. And Nia
isn't the only target. She must use all of her street smarts to protect
her dancers, save a wrongfully accused student, and rescue the man she
Dark Turns is one of those books over which I had mixed feelings; undecided as to whether this was a young adult thriller or whether I was reading a fiction novel, albeit with some suspenseful elements thrown in, about Nia's return to professional ballet. What I did like about this novel in particular, was the character flaws of the characters as it added a depth to the novel which might have otherwise been lacking. For some reason, I am particularly attracted to characters who are flawed, but who grow and learn from their mistakes and their actions.
What I really did enjoy in this novel was the dancing and the infighting amongst the students and even the staff members. Being familiar with a competitive environment myself, I well understand the competitive nature these young ballerinas would have and the drive they would need to get to the top; many of them were in their audition year and everything counted, including the roles they won in their showcases. That drive unfortunately, can also lend itself to mischief if one doesn't get what one wants, and this is clearly the case in this novel. I found Aubrey's personality to be quite interesting in this novel, as she definitely had the drive and the ambition to make it to the top. When her plans were slightly derailed by a fiercely competitive and talented newcomer, I couldn't wait to see what she would do. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed as I think I expected, and wanted, her to be even worse throughout the novel than she was as it would have brought some much needed drama to the set, so to speak. I was also disappointed in the author when it came to Aubrey as I don't think she really explained her history as well as she could have, which would have made the ending a bit more palatable.
I enjoyed some aspects of Nia's character, but I thought she was a bit shallow and selfish, constantly thinking about herself and her professional career. I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing, to think about your future prospects as a ballerina, especially when you have trained for years to get what you want and become injured. My problem with Nia is her shallowness and her disregard for others, at times. Let me explain. When a student comes to her with a problem, Nia betrays her confidence with no thought, leaving her to own devices and pretty much dealing with the situation herself. Where are the therapists and nutritionists to help a student clearly dealing with an eating disorder? Nia really gives no further thought to this student and some of the emotional things she is going through other than how it may affect her dancing and how she looks when dancing. While I realize this may be a rather good technique employed by the author to show us some of the things that are wrong in the dance world, it certainly didn't endear me to Nia. And when she begins a love affair with another RA, disregarding fraternization rules, it clearly shows lack of respect for school rules and a contract she has signed. But Nia's needs are more important than the school's; this bothered me quite a bit. I also didn't like her new fling as I thought he was a bit creepy.
Dark Turns certainly had some interesting moments, and I definitely liked a lot of the ballet scenes, the competitive atmosphere, but I felt the suspense and mystery to the story were a bit lacking, and certainly predictable. Nia was a bit naive and a bit self-centered, risking her relationship with others due to her own behaviour. Let's get real here, she was an RA and an instructor at a prestigious dance school, and some of the ways she behaved would not really be tolerated. To be honest, I wonder if I would have liked this book more if it had been more about the dance world, and the competitiveness, rather than being passed off as a thriller. There were so many aspects in this book that were worthy of exploration and were glossed over, which is a shame, as I think it would have brought this book to a much higher level, and brought it's own form of suspense with it. I really hope the author continues to write about this world as she is so very knowledgeable and there is so much to explore.