On Pointe Mysteries By Lori Robbins: Reviews/Giveaways/Interview

Mar 18, 2023 | 2023 Articles, Kathleen Costa, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Kathleen Costa

This week we have a review of the first 3 books in the On Pointe Mystery series by Lori Robbins along with an interesting interview with Lori. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win ebook copies of all 3 books, and a link to purchase the newest one from Amazon.

An On Pointe Mystery By Lori Robbins

Lori Robbins premiered the On Pointe Mystery series with Murder in First Position in 2020, following up with Murder in Second Position (2021) and Murder in Third Position (2022). With the world of ballet as the backdrop, she introduced Leah Siderova who only ever cared about ballet. Her parents supported her dreams sending her to the best schools, but after they divorced early in her life, her mother, believing her Russian ancestry would fare better than Feldbaum on the marquee, changed their name to Siderova. The rest of the family (a sister Melissa, step-parents, aunts and uncles as well as her best friend and former dancer Gabi) also provide a great deal of support with insights into legal matters, philosophy, life as a dancer, and literary detective novels. But, beyond the tutus, pointe slippers, and choreography, she finds herself entangled in professional jealousies, two-faced relationships, and more than one suspicious death.

Murder in First Position Earns 5+/5 Pirouettes … Engaging & Entertaining Gem!
Leah Siderova’s talent was praised by many in the community putting her at the pinnacle of an international dancing career, until a dancer’s worst nightmare … knee surgery. But, ballet is her life, so she has no plans for early retirement. Instead, she’s vying for a comeback, ready to call in a few favors, but sadly, she finds herself navigating the heartache of being overlooked, replaced, and put into an “understudy” role. She was not featured in the article Times critic Greyson Averin had promised or selected as the lead in Bryan Leister’s new production commissioned by the American Ballet Company; both honors went to Arianna Bonneville, a talented rising star. It’s well known the world of ballet is filled with cutthroat competition, “zilla” personalities, and backstabbing, so when Leah finds Arianna literally stabbed in the back and her last words implicate Leah, professing her innocence to the police is met with skepticism. Leah had witnessed, as well as received, Arianna’s physical and verbal cruelty, but despite the gossip Leah was jealous, a physical altercation seen by many, and testimony and real forensic evidence, the difference of opinion among the detectives is not enough; Leah will not be railroaded.

Take a Bow! Lori Robbins had me immediately hooked with the murder of Leah’s dancing nemesis revealed in the first chapter; I couldn’t put it down! The investigation took center stage with previous incidents revisited along with raising connections to attacks in Paris where Leah had also been in attendance. There’re few confidants in the American Ballet Company to support Leah’s claim of innocence since one less dancer to compete with is a plus in everyone’s mind, but her dancing partner Daniel, a young dancer Olivia resigned to the corps de ballet, and dancing coach Madame Maksimova offer some insights. The motives are varied and cause Leah quite a dilemma: another diva dancer, usurpers within the ballet troupe, hidden agendas, and rumors of plenty of affairs. Of course, the “Don’t get involved” scheme means everyone is uncooperative and worried their own careers could be jeopardized. Add a shadowy stalker, alibis hard to crack, a trio of helpful ladies, and another attack to ramp up the intensity exploding with a nail-biting chase. I was fascinated by the inner workings of the ballet company which brought to mind the movie The Turning Point. Cheers!

Murder in Second Position Earns 5+/5 Toile Tutus … Complex & Clever Gem!
The ballet world is an enigma. The dancers, choreographers, and behind-the-scenes creative forces work together like a well-oiled machine, but separately, it’s advised you don’t turn your back on anyone. Pavel Baron, artistic director for the American Ballet Company, has been more tyrannical as of late: eyeing the dancers, barking orders, and allowing too many concessions to new management, Artistic Solutions. Bobbie York is furious “AS” has infiltrated her costume department, young dancer Olivia is frustrated to still be an understudy, and Leah is shocked to find the new health and wellness coach is her step-mother. Leah also feels deliberately slighted with a demotion in the list of primary dancers, so taking a cue from her new dance partner’s confrontation with Pavel’s overzealous rehearsal, she goes to see Pavel to find out why. Savannah Collier, his assistant and “AS” employee, says he’s left already hoping to avoid the incoming storm. Well, he didn’t make it … Pavel is dead at the bottom of the stairs! The stigma of having been considered a murderer before has the assistant accusing Leah of murder and demanding her arrest. The detectives are again conflicted; Leah’s friend Detective Sobol acquiesces to protocol, but Detective Farrow is more actively suspicious.

Curtain Call Applause! Lori Robbins did well to grab my immediate interest laying out several conflicts between the corporate side and the ballet side, some #MeToo incidents, and more diva antics that could well be motive for murder, but as the drama continues, additional attacks, accusing remarks, shocking connections, and surprise revelations literally had me gasp! I like the fact that early in the story, Leah has her “wrong place, wrong time” moment and police are again conflicted over her involvement. Despite the victim being a good karmic choice, the story offers others who need a bit of karmic intervention as well from employees of Artistic Solutions and ABC alumni to a plethora of dancers. The hierarchy between the principal dancers and the corps de ballet does not go without a mention; it was so well depicted that many might see their own personal experiences, depending where you fall on the corporate ladder, and many it seems have very long memories. Leah’s step-mother’s surprise appearance and concerns of a conflict of interest along with her mother taking her own role to protect her daughter added well to the drama. Brava!

Murder in Third Position Earns 5+/5 Fouettés … Intriguing & Intense Gem!
Brett Cameron thought less on putting Leah in physical danger with Maurice Kaminsky’s new stage contraption, and more on his choreography career that depends on the success of his first feature-length ballet, The Nutcracker. Maurice, his husband and well-known artist, sees his creation as center to the original story and relishes being showcased in a film about his life and art by indie filmmaker Nelson Merrill. Merrill is known more for his true crime documentaries, but for this project, he seems more interested in gossip, of which there is plenty. Rumors have it that Brett is slated as the new artistic director, but there are cracks in the marital bliss between Brett and Maurice, and courtesy of Brett, Leah’s most scheming competitor appears poised to emerge from her understudy role and challenge Leah for Romeo and Juliet. But, problems are compounded by an anonymous delivery of a box of chocolates, a scream, discovery of Maurice’s dead body, Leah’s friend and dance partner Joaquin Texeira found covered in blood, and Olivia, Leah’s friend, yelling “It was an accident! He didn’t do it!”

Standing Ovation! Lori Robbins has set up an exciting drama punctuated with personal and professional relationships at the center of murder, and with the victim having a life outside the world of ballet, the avenues to explore go beyond the theater. There’s no delay in getting together the Choreographers of Crime (a misleading moniker, Leah adds) to hatch a plan for nosing around, and having a different rationale for involvement or perspective makes for an wide-ranging discussion. Of course, it all heats up with an additional homicide, questionable accidents, and personal peril complicating an already intriguing scenario. And again … couldn’t put it down! Adding to the complexity, Leah’s Aunt Rachel makes an appearance revealing serious sibling rivalry with her mother, a bit of narcissism, and some interference to their plans. The connection with Dr. Zach has cooled, and with Detective Sobol she’s experiencing some relationship pitfalls: suspicions, miscommunications, and the demands of their job. Encore!

Series Box Office Hit! Lori Robbins brings an intriguing view of the inner workings of the ballet community with its creative forces, professional conflicts, food issues, physical stress, and an eclectic troupe of personalities. She weaves in clever murder mysteries of a diva dancer, a demanding artistic director, and an egotistical set designer along with a few pesky witnesses or co-conspirators. She provides an elaborate investigation revealing the complexities of relationships, politics of the ballet, motives and personal agendas, as well as the temporary nature of so many relationships … this week one, next week another, repeat. There are plenty of perilous moments, misunderstandings, and collateral damage to complicate the issues. Robbins presents a fascinating family dynamic and connection to close friends, and although not always constructive and endearing, it does come in handy when Leah requires advice, some extra snooping, a distraction, or a ticket out of jail. One thing is certain, nothing always goes as planned.

Romance is an element I always enjoy mixed in with the mystery, and for Leah, there’s two viable candidates. “Team Doctor” is her family’s choice, especially her mother, but Leah’s unsure about actually saying “boyfriend,” and his job, an ex-wife, and a daughter complicate matters. Then, there’s my choice “Team Detective” with whom she says they are just friends citing some awkwardness being “amorous” with someone who thought her a killer, but despite missteps and obstacles with his job, her physical reactions to his proximity makes him worth overlooking any glitch. All and all, it’s a comfortable, and evolving, triangle.

Robbins writing style is entertaining and solicits a variety of emotions from me. I was intrigued, angry, worried, and thrilled by the end. Her descriptive language clearly illustrated the different environments and an eclectic cast of which I’d love to be apart, and the realistic banter showcased the different personalities from morally true to morally wicked and those in the middle. Ballet is an area I have little knowledge beyond seeing The Nutcracker Suite when I was young, but I found references to particular performances, unique vocabulary, and plight of the dancers fascinating and well worth learning more. I love chapter titles, and using a quote from many well-known figures helped illustrate the mood, provide background, or offer insights into the world of dance. Cheers! Brava! Encore!

On Pointe Mystery
Murder in First Position (2020)
Murder in Second Position (2021)
Murder in Third Position (2022)
Murder in Fourth Position (2023)

Leah takes a leave of absence from the American Ballet Company to dance in a new Broadway musical choreographed by Bryan Leister, but she’s secretly cast in a double role. She is officially collaborating with the NYPD hoping to prevent an online predator from executing real life violence.

Be a Big Fan of Lori Robbins!
Lori Robbins is a former dancer herself having performed with several modern dance and ballet companies which gives her a unique insight for her On Pointe Mystery series. Currently there are three On Pointe Mystery books with a fourth book set for an October release, and she has a contract for two more tentatively titled Murder in Fifth Position and Murder in Parallel Position. Using her experiences as an English teacher, she penned Master Class Mystery with Lesson Plan for Murder. Experience is key!

As Robbins posted on Facebook in November, 2021, about contributing to The Secret Ingredient: Mystery Writers Cookbook, “Although ballerina Leah Siderova doesn’t cook anything more complicated than coffee, her perfectly wonderful sister Melissa provided a recipe for Spinach Noodles.”

Kathleen Costa is a long-time resident of the Central Valley, and although born in Idaho, she considers herself a “California Girl.” Graduating from CSU-Sacramento, she is 35+ year veteran teacher having taught in grades 1-8 in schools from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Stockton to Lodi. Currently Kathleen is enjoying year 2 of retirement revitalizing hobbies along with exploring writing, reading for pleasure, and spending 24/7 with her husband of 26+ years.

Interview with Lori Robbins:

KRL: How long have you been writing?

Lori: I began writing long-form fiction about eight years ago. Before that, it was mostly character sketches and short stories, which I shared with an audience of no one.

KRL: When did your first novel come out, what was it called, and would you tell us a little about it?

Lori: Lesson Plan for Murder is an academic mystery, in which an English teacher investigates the murder of one of her colleagues. The chapter headings are titles of famous novels and provide both clues and a running commentary for the amateur sleuth’s investigation. It was released in 2017, by a publisher that has since folded. Level Best Books will re-release it in May 2023 as the opening work in a three-part Master Class series.

Lesson Plan for Murder won the Silver Falchion for Best Cozy Mystery in 2018, and I’m excited that this book is getting another chance at publication.

KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense and if not, what else have you written?

Lori Robbins

Lori: My books to date have all been mysteries. I’ve got two series that lean toward the cozy/traditional genre, but I recently began a suspense novel, which is quite different from the rest.

KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?

Lori: The On Pointe mystery series, which takes place in a New York City ballet company, is very much informed by my career as a dancer. The plots are pure fiction, but the details of a dancer’s life and the ruthless nature of ballet are all real.

I grew up in New York City and lived there for many years, and it’s such a rich setting for a murder mystery. The ballet company functions as a small town within that big city, so I get to enjoy the opportunities both setting offers.

The protagonist is a ballerina on the wrong side of thirty who, over the course of the series learns there’s more to life and to her, than being onstage. Rather than make the main character an ingenue who rises to stardom, I found it more interesting to address the challenges of a ballerina who’s battling to stay on top in an increasingly hostile environment. There’s nothing like a murder to facilitate personal growth.

KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to experience from your work?

Lori: My goal is to entertain my readers, but the books don’t take place in a vacuum. The pressure to conform to a seemingly impossible ideal of perfection isn’t confined to the world of dance, and that’s something that receives considerable weight in my writing, even if it does come in the form of humor. The protagonists of both series struggle with unrealistic expectations that are as much inner-directed as they are societal. My characters are sharp-tongued, but they’re as likely to turn that wit against themselves as wield it against their rivals.

KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just work whenever you can?

Lori: I still take ballet classes most mornings, so I begin writing in the early afternoon and continue into the evening. I aim for one thousand words a day, although when I’m editing one manuscript while writing another, I don’t always reach that goal. It’s rare for me to take a day off, because it’s easy to lose the flow of the narrative, and because my characters have a disturbing habit of showing up in my dreams if I ignore them for longer than a day or so.

KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?

Lori: I begin a book by sketching out the action in each chapter, an activity that doesn’t rise to the level of a fully formed outline. I usually get stuck halfway through, at about chapter seventeen. That’s when I stop worrying about what’s going to happen and start writing. Characters show up, things happen, and from there we’re off to the races. I know who the primary victim is, who the killer is, and the motivation behind the crime, but things don’t always evolve in the way that the initial plan envisions.

KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?

Lori: Not that I’m counting, but I got forty-nine rejections before getting two offers. I know now there’s nothing remarkable about that number, but at the time it was…trying.

KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?

Lori: Where do I begin?! I suppose the worst rejection I got wasn’t from an agent or publisher, but from a writer in my first critique group. She was positive the book would never get published, because the protagonist was too unlikeable. This all happened before unreliable and possibly lethal female characters gained traction through books like Gone Girl. I did end up softening the edges of my very sarcastic English teacher, but I’m now reveling in writing a suspense novel in which the main character is, well, let’s call her difficult. In her defense, she probably didn’t set the fire that killed two people.

KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?

Lori: I was on my way to a book signing at the Brooklyn Book Festival when two women stopped me to say how much they loved my writing. It would have been quite flattering, if not for the fact that they mistook me for someone else. I have to give them credit, though, they followed me to my table and bought my books anyway.

KRL: What are your future writing goals?

Lori: I’ve got a secret hankering to write a multi-generational historical novel that begins in Odessa, in 1919, and ends in New York City, in 2019. But that’s very much on the back burner for now.

KRL: Who are your writing heroes?

Lori: Setting aside the usual suspects for a former English teacher [Jane Austen, George Eliot, and Anthony Trollope] my favorite mystery/suspense writers are Alison Gaylin, Carol Goodman, Wendy Corsi Staub, and Judith Flanders. Their thorough and compelling stories never overtake character and setting, and they all deal with challenging and thought-provoking issues.

KRL: What kind of research do you do?

Lori: For all things technical, I pay a team of experts to provide advice. Those four years of college tuition, times six kids, really paid off for all concerned. We’ve also got a doctor in the house for questions about stab wounds or poison. I do like to keep things in the family, and so for all other issues, I rely on Uncle Google.

KRL: What do you like to read?

Lori: For suspense, the aforementioned authors never disappoint. For non-genre fiction, my tastes are pretty eclectic. I went through a long period of reading the more obscure Victorian female writers like Maria Edgeworth and Elizabeth Gaskell. On the contemporary side, I’m a huge fan of Richard Russo and Madeline Miller. My favorite writer is A.S. Byatt. I think I’ve read Possession a dozen or more times.

KRL: What are your favorite TV shows or movies?

Lori: Astrid is one of my favorites. It’s about a Parisian police detective who teams up with a neuro-diverse worker in the Criminal Records division. The partnership between these two very different women is rendered with great warmth and sensitivity, and the plots are both intricate and compelling.

KRL: Have you any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?

Lori: Long before I had a finished manuscript, I told myself, and anyone else who might be interested, that I was writing a book. Saying it out loud was a commitment to follow through, and I recommend taking that leap of faith.

On a less abstract note: Joining Sisters in Crime was one of the best moves I made as a beginning writer. I’m a member of the NY/Tristate chapter, and the friendship, advice, and support I got continues to sustain me. Nationally, Sisters in Crime offers so much through their virtual write-ins, workshops, and lectures. Writing takes place in a solitary space, but organizations like Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America offer a supportive and educational community.

KRL: I agree with you about Sisters in Crime. What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Lori: My childhood ambition was to be an international spy. Reading and writing have gone a long way in consoling me for that missed opportunity.

KRL: Do you have any pets?

Lori: I no longer have any pets, but Leah, the protagonist of the On Pointe series, is thinking about committing to a long-term relationship with a plant. Animals and people are still too challenging for her, despite the presence of a certain homicide detective.

KRL: Is there anything you would like to add?

Lori: I solemnly swear none of my evil characters is based on anyone I know, although I may have given them one or two traits from people in a past life.

KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook? Instagram?

Lori: linktr.ee/lorirobbinsmysteries

To enter to win an ebook copy of all 3 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “dance,” or by commenting below about a childhood memory: (1) your literary hero, (2) a class in which you participated, or (3) experiences with dance. A winner will be chosen March 25, 2023. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter.You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify.

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Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. I remember learning some square dancing in PE. “Heel, Toe, Heel, Toe Slide, Slide Slide”

    • I did too! We didn’t get past the heel, toe, slide, either…

  2. Sounds like an interesting series. My Mom had me take a class in tap dancing. I don’t know much about ballet.

  3. After I retired from ballet I took a few classes in tap. I figured, how hard could it be? The answer: Very hard!

  4. Hi – my literary hero is likely Robin Hood. I have enjoyed the written stories since elementary school, and most of the movies and TV show interpretations.

  5. We have a winner!


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