Catch Her When She Falls
By: Allison Buccola
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 02/01/2022
My Rating: 5 Stars
In this “propulsive” (Kimberly McCreight) debut thriller, a young woman questions everything she thought she knew about the shocking murder that changed her life when she was in high school.
“A riveting game of cat and mouse with a startling conclusion.”—Liv Constantine, bestselling author of The Last Mrs. Parrish
Ten years ago, my boyfriend killed my best friend.
When Micah Wilkes was a senior in high school, her boyfriend was convicted of murdering her best friend, Emily, a star ballerina with a bright future. A decade later, Micah has finally moved on from the unforgivable betrayal and loss. Now the owner of a bustling coffee shop in her small hometown in Pennsylvania, she’s happily coupled up with another old high school friend, the two having bonded over their shared sorrow.
But when reminders of her past begin appearing at her work and home, Micah begins to doubt what she knows about Emily’s death. Questions raised on a true crime blog and in an online web sleuthing forum force her to reexamine her memories of that fateful night. She told the truth to the investigators on the case, but was there another explanation for Emily’s murder? A stranger in the woods. An obsessive former classmate. A domineering ballet instructor. Or the internet’s favorite suspect: Joshua, Emily’s outcast younger brother who hasn’t been seen since his sister’s death.
As Micah delves deeper into the case, she feels her grip on reality loosening, her behavior growing more and more secretive and unhinged. As she races to piece together the truth about that night ten years ago, Micah grapples with how things could have gone so wrong and wonders whether she, too, might be next to disappear.
Available in Hardcover, e-book, and audio
Published by Random House
Feb 01, 2022 | 368 Pages | ISBN 9780593231296
About the Author
Allison Buccola is an attorney with a JD from the University of Chicago. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and their two young children. Catch Her When She Falls is her first novel.
Connect with Allison:
ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2022 —She Reads
“Buccola’s deeply developed characters and simmering suspense propel this story of one woman’s quest to discover the truth about the mysterious death of her best friend. A riveting game of cat and mouse with a startling conclusion.” —Liv Constantine, bestselling author of The Last Mrs. Parrish
“Gripping and mesmerizing, reading Catch Her When She Falls is like watching a building catch fire, aware that dark ends are coming but unable to look away. Ten years after a shocking murder, amateur sleuths question whether the man in prison is responsible, causing his former girlfriend to reopen a case she never wanted to confront again. As new clues pile up, her paranoia and fear ratchet higher until almost everyone is a suspect. A portrait of a woman unraveling, this is the definition of ‘shirk all responsibilities and stay up until 2 a.m.’ reading. A superb story.” —Ashley Winstead, author of In My Dreams I Hold a Knife
“Richly atmospheric and thoroughly propulsive, Catch Her When She Falls is a thought-provoking mystery about the fraught interconnectedness of youth and the tragic limitations of teenage insight.” —Kimberly McCreight, New York Times bestselling author of Reconstructing Amelia and A Good Marriage
“A tense and twisting debut thriller . . . After receiving ominous warnings that the wrong person might be in prison for her best friend’s murder, Micah is in a desperate race for answers, but can she uncover the truth before her own life unravels? Catch Her When She Falls probes the dark shadows of guilt, suspicion, and obsession that surround a case where nothing is as it seems.” —Laura McHugh, author of What’s Done in Darkness
Q&A Elevator Ride with
debut author Allison Buccola
"Behind the Book and the Author" | #AuthorElevatorSeries
Exceptional Authors. Standout Books. Elevator Talk.
INTRIGUING QUESTIONS | INQUIRING READERS WANT TO KNOW
Thank you for joining us today. We cannot wait to learn more about your latest thriller everyone is talking about, CATCH HER WHEN SHE FALLS and yourself. Readers: Be sure and check out my review below! A fantastic debut.
Q. INSPIRATION: The spark that ignited the novel? Where were you when the idea came to you?
ALLISON: The idea for CATCH HER WHEN SHE FALLS came to me while listening to a true-crime podcast and imagining the lives of the friends and family who were interviewed. Would they welcome the new attention? Would it feel more like picking at an old wound? I started thinking about Micah, a character who would have complicated feelings about revisiting the past. When she was in high school, her boyfriend was convicted of the murder of her best friend, and she’s never been able to come to terms with what happened. As the best friend of the victim and the girlfriend of the supposed murderer, she has an ambivalent role to play and has naturally attracted a lot of attention and speculation. The story spun out from there!
Q. SETTING: Tell us more about the book setting and why you chose it?
ALLISON: The book is mostly set in Calvary, a fictional Pennsylvania town. It’s based loosely on Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, former home to Bethlehem Steel and current home to Lehigh University. An old steel town felt right for Micah, who is trying to figure out how to move on from her past, too. I also liked the mix of people that you get in a college town: a combination of lifers who are steeped in old gossip and students who are just passing through.
Q. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: What fantastic character development! Your favorite character to write and/or your most challenging?
ALLISON: By far the hardest character was Ryan, Micah’s current boyfriend. I wanted Ryan to be someone who would appeal to Micah, obviously, but also someone she’d push away from, and it was hard calibrating that right. Sometimes he was too passive, sometimes he was not passive enough to make sense with Micah—I think his personality changed in every draft. (And there were a lot of drafts!)
My favorite character was Julia, who struck up a relationship with Micah’s ex-boyfriend after his arrest and has been single-mindedly advocating for his release ever since. Micah HATES her, but I had a real soft spot for her. She marches to the beat of her own drum and does not care what others around her think.
Q. PLOT: What an expertly twisty plot! So many secrets, action, and multiple timelines. Could you share how you keep all these moving parts organized?
ALLISON: I used Scrivener, a writing program that allows you to move scenes around like notecards. I’d recommend the program to anyone writing a novel, but would especially recommend it to anyone writing a novel with multiple timelines.
Mostly, though, working with secrets and multiple timelines just meant a lot of revising! I’d realize most of the way through a draft that I wanted to change something about the past, or tweak what Micah knows in the present, and those changes would have ripple effects through the whole book and sometimes necessitate a new draft. Sometimes that was fun—like solving a puzzle—and sometimes it was frustrating, but I hope in the long run it helped the story feel more layered.
Now for some fun facts "about the author."
Give us Your Best Elevator Pitch for Catch Her When She Falls
"For the past ten years, Micah has believed that her high school boyfriend killed her best friend. But when reminders of the past start appearing at work and home, she begins to question who she can trust and what she really knows about that tragic night."
Favorite thing about where you reside?
The woods! We just moved out of the city recently, and I had forgotten how nice it is to be around trees.
I’m a night person by nature, but my kids are EXTREMELY early risers, so I’ve been forced to become a morning person in recent years.
Favorite holiday or season?
Favorite reading format?
I like switching back and forth between audio and physical copies. I don’t often get the chance to “binge” on a book—the closest I can get is sneaking in the audio version while doing stuff around the house and then settling in to read in the evenings. A good narrator can add so much to a book (like Frankie Corzo, who does an AMAZING job as Micah on the audio version of CATCH HER WHEN SHE FALLS), and it’s fun to compare how I would read certain characters vs. the spin the narrator puts on them.
Favorite TV Series? (or Movie/Video) binge-watch, series, etc.
Mare of Easttown is one of my recent favorites! It’s a great story, Kate Winslet is obviously amazing, and it was filmed where I live, so I had a lot of fun looking for local spots and listening for the Delco accent.
Favorite place to write?
We converted the old barn in our yard into a writer’s studio, and I love finally having my own space.
Favorite social media platform? (Or would you prefer none of them)?
I was never much of a social media person so I expected to be uncomfortable with all of them, but I really like Instagram! The Bookstagram community is fantastic, and I’ve gotten a lot of great book recommendations through it.
Name something you consider yourself to be very good at?
Name one thing you consider to be bad at?
The best thing about a pandemic? (or worst)
Zoom book clubs and writing groups. At the beginning of the pandemic, I started doing a family book club with my sister, sister-in-law, and our moms (who live in Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati), and I love it—we kept it up and have no plans to stop. It’s also made it possible for me to keep up with my old Philly book club, even though almost none of the members live in Philly anymore, and I joined a critique group for thriller writers that has been fantastic.
What were you doing at midnight last evening?
Trying to get my five-year-old back into bed.
What are some earlier jobs you had before becoming an author?
Bartender in Brussels, lawyer, and stay-at-home mom
How have these earlier jobs been instrumental in your writing career?
Bartending was a great people-watching job, lawyering taught me the diligence that I needed to actually finish a book, and having kids made me realize how limited my time was—if I wanted to write a book, I needed to use the windows of time that I had, or it would never happen.
Could you recommend any books that you have read recently and loved?
Yes! One amazing book coming out later this month is Mandy McHugh’s CHLOE CATES IS MISSING, about the disappearance of a thirteen-year-old social media star. Another is Jennifer Fawcett’s BENEATH THE STAIRS, which centers on an abandoned house in the woods with a gruesome past and a strange pull over the girls who enter it.
Thank you, Allison. 🧡
Check out Allison's IG to view photos of her converted barn/writing studio, plus more teasers about the book. It is always so much fun connecting with new authors. We look forward to having Allison back with many more future novels.
Pick up a copy of CATCH HER WHEN SHE FALLS from your favorite bookstore. Available in Hardcover, e-book, and audio formats.
Richly Atmospheric. Twisty. Chilling!
Wow! CATCH HER WHEN SHE FALLS is a knockout riveting debut thriller from Allison Buccola, and looking forward to many more to come.
The twists, turns, and unpredictable ending make for an irresistible winter read.
Delighted to see another attorney turned novelist! Some of my favorite authors started as lawyers; (Wendy Walker, Michelle Campbell, Aime Austin, Emily Giffin, Lisa Scottoline, Allen Eskens, John Hart, John Grisham, etc.) and continue to be on my top books list each year.
The author draws you in immediately with the opening line:
"Ten years ago, my boyfriend killed my best friend."
Someone is driving alone: 7:15 am just woods, road, snow.
From Wind Gap, Pennsylvania.
350 miles remaining.
Meet the protagonist, Micah Wilkes.
Ten years ago, Micah was dating Alex Swift and was best friends with Emily Winters.
Alex is in prison, and Emily is dead.
Yes, you can guess, there is a complex, multi-layered mysterious back story here, and you will be on the edge of your seat from the first page to the explosive ending!
The author carefully unravels the events leading up to the present from the recent past, ten years ago, and the present.
At the beginning of each chapter, in bold, we see Micah is driving from Pennsylvania (time and remaining mileage to reach the final destination).
She desperately needs to speak with Joshua (Emily's stepbrother) to answer questions about the murder, which has resurfaced due to a popular crime blog.
What if Alex was not the killer?
What if she got it all wrong. Micah is trying to fix things, and she wants to make them right. Her testimony was what sent Alex, her boyfriend, to prison.
Each chapter is a countdown to the destination. Do not let this confuse you as you read into each chapter. It is a teaser only.
Included in body of each chapter the author provides a clear picture of what Micah is thinking and feeling each step of the way. She is emotional, guilt ridden, and determined to figure out what really happened to her friend and if Alex possibly is not guilty.
He has spent the last ten years in prison. He should have been at Penn State. Emily could have had a budding career as a ballerina.
SCENE OF THE CRIME:
TEN YEARS EARLIER
“The stone pillars marking the entrance to the campsite were visible from the street for someone who knew where to look, moss-covered and misshapen, but still standing.“
An abandoned resort/sanatorium.
Why didn't you help me?
Micah has moved back to Pennsylvania, her small rural hometown from Chicago, where it all happened. She had to come back to take care of her mom, that has now passed, and used the money to buy Stomping Grounds a coffee cafe.
She swore she would never come back as there are too many bad memories, but here she is.
In addition, she is living with Ryan (2 years), her present boyfriend (who made up their foursome back when he was best friends with Alex). It was always Alex, Micah, Emily, and Ryan.
Her coffee house is near the college campus, and kids flock there to hang out. Also, there is much gossip. It is the tenth anniversary of the murder, and Alex may get out of prison.
There is a true-crime blog, "NO STONE UNTURNED" that is gaining attention pretty much run by Julia, their former classmate who claims she is a girlfriend of Alex.
People are re-visiting the crime, and Micah is second-guessing herself. She is bordering on obsession, reading everything she can online, doubting her current boyfriend, and hearing things at the cafe. She does not trust anyone.
It all happened at an old campsite in the creepy forest in the summer. The group and others all went camping that night ten years ago. Alex went missing, and so did Emily. Everyone assumed Alex was the killer but was it someone else?
Micah's obsession about the night of the crime is getting in the way of operating her business and her current relationship with Ryan. She is spinning out of control. Micah is looking at every person as the killer. Everyone is looking at her.
Emily was a star. She had returned from a ballet summer intensive in upstate New York. Emily had it all but was she truly happy? Was Micah jealous of her? What happened that night ten years ago?
Joshua seems to be living off the grid, and Micah has no way to contact him. He will not answer calls or texts, so she must drive to find him. Does she really know Ryan? Will Josh have the answers she desperately needs, or could it be something more sinister?
The author cleverly keeps you guessing in a high-stakes cat and mouse game of suspense with many red herrings. I was holding my breath when Micah and Joshua were in the car. OMG! Nothing is as it appears.
Now, as you are reading, you may wish you could hear from Emily and Alex's POV. Wouldn't it be great to hear from them? However, when you reach the final chapter, you can see why it was written this way. Micah may find herself having to go off the grid herself.
All will be revealed with a twist where you will learn more about Emily. This part reminded me a bit of John Hart's The Unwilling from last February.
A smart thriller, addictively suspenseful. A propulsive journey through a winding maze of secrets and the true-crime blog entries added even more fuel to the fire.
I read this one in two sittings, and challenging to put down. Everyone seems to be a suspect. You begin to think Micah is going nuts. Ryan is also a dark horse, among others, but my favorite part was with Joshua. Do you really know your best friend and those closest to you? What secrets do they carry?
Fans of true-crime stories and fans of Wendy Walker, Robyn Harding, Megan Miranda, Laura McHugh, Lisa Unger, Mary Kubica, and Heather Gudenkauf will enjoy this one!
In addition, you will be thinking about the Brian Laundrie/Gabby Petito mystery (since I am a Floridan, we are obsessed with this case).
I am delighted to discover this newfound thriller author. I wonder if we will see any legal/crime/literary thrillers in the future? (my favorite genre)
On a side note: I have enjoyed the @22debuts Debut Countdown to 2022 with Allison's interesting IG posts. A brilliant idea. I love behind the scenes and inspiration for novels. Highly recommend you check out the posts, videos, photos, and stories, as well as her quaint and fabulous writing studio.
I cannot wait to see what is next!
I am very grateful that the Random House marketing team reached out to me directly months ago about this novel since I enjoyed WHAT'S DONE IN DARKNESS by Laura McHugh and recommended Allison's CATCH HER WHEN SHE FALLS. Yes, indeed, they know my top reading preferences! Be sure and check out this title as well.
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5/5 Stars
Pub Date: Feb 1, 2022