Thirty-two-year-old Chicago mystery novelist and Bridgeport resident Mina Banksy is a recently divorced woman who is at the center of a crime when she finds out her van is being used for criminal activity and her friend, Dylan, goes missing. Dylan is Mina’s jiu-jitsu classmate and she trusts him enough to let him purchase a van under her name although he is also an ex-felon. In Zhanna Slor’s “Breakfall,” a writer will put her knowledge to the test, revive an affair, and uncover secrets about people she thought she knew.
As the investigation unfolds, we see the events that lead to the disappearance of Dylan and other gruesome findings. It begins with Mina’s affair with Matthew Stone, a married Chicago Police Department officer. Mina and her husband Dimitry are friends with Matthew and his wife, Ariel. Both couples practice jiu-jitsu at Open Guard gym and even have daughters of similar age, Dallas and Amelie. Their families’ lives are interrupted when Mina becomes irritated and bored in her marriage with Dimitry. Though Dimitry is a good person, his performance in the bedroom has not improved within the decade of their marriage. One day, Mina and Matthew confess they sexually fantasize about each other and she finally gets the satisfaction she had secretly longed for. She returns to Matthew and they begin sleeping with each other in secret. Enjoying Matthew’s aggressive behavior of slapping and choking, Mina remains ridden with guilt. Mina faces the dichotomy of pursuing her sexual desires while at the same time trying to be a good mother and a loyal wife.
Before the affair began, Mina had to repress her sexual side, and practicing jiu-jitsu entertained that side of her. She admits that she enjoys being “thrown around by grown men” though she knows it is not a sexual sport. All her classmates at Open Guard find out about Mina and Matthew’s affair in a shocking and humiliating way. After that incident, Matthew moves with his wife to Arizona. She finds out that he returned to Chicago coincidentally at the same time that she needed him. Though Matthew may be the perfect partner in the bedroom, it’s easy to notice that Matthew is a troubled person who doesn’t treat his wife and daughter well. Even then, Matthew becomes her partner investigator and stays by her side as they work on investigating the case themselves. Slor’s novel focuses slightly more on Mina and Matthew’s affair and their issues rather than solving the case. I found myself very entertained as I learned something new in every chapter. Brace yourself for this book with a twist and an ending that comes too quickly.
By Zhanna Slor
Angelica Flores is a Mexican-American writer and Dominican University graduate. She enjoys working on English-Spanish translations and has created the Southwest Nest Series for the online arts publication, Sixty Inches From Center. She also writes for The Gate Newspaper, where she has reviewed books, films, and theater performances. She works for the Poetry Foundation and is the owner of the blog, The Macaron Raccoon.