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Reviewed by Shelley Sutherland, Primary School Kaiako St Bernadette's Primary Canterbury
Opening sentence
When I last saw Ashleigh, she was lying in a pool of blood . . . Her eyes were open, staring sightlessly into the sky. I’d like to think she saw the stars before she died; that in her last moments she flew, soaring on serotonin, dreamy with dopamine. I’d like to think she didn’t suffer . . .
'The Night She Fell' by Eileen Merriman is a gripping psychological thriller set against the backdrop of Otago University's medical school. The novel opens with the tragic death of Ashleigh Marlow, a beautiful and successful law student who falls from her third-story window. The mystery that unfolds is not how she died, but why—and who was involved.

Merriman skillfully navigates the complex dynamics among a group of 20-year-old students. Ashleigh's boyfriend, Xander, and her flatmates, including the mysterious Ronnie, are all potential suspects with hidden motives and dark secrets. As tensions rise and relationships fracture, the novel oscillates between the past and the present, unraveling the events leading up to Ashleigh’s death and the chaotic aftermath.

Dunedin's student life is vividly depicted, from the squalid flats to the hedonistic parties. Merriman’s background as a consultant haematologist adds authenticity to the medical settings and the issues of drug access and addiction that permeate the story. The characters are richly developed, with their personal insecurities and hidden desires driving the narrative forward.

'The Night She Fell' is a compelling exploration of narcissism, deceit, and the masks people wear. With a fast-paced plot and intricate character dynamics, this thriller will keep readers awake long into the night, constantly guessing who can be trusted and who cannot.

Note: Deals with themes of suicide, mental health, domestic abuse.
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 9781776950430
Format: Paperback
Publication: March 2024
Ages: 16+
Themes: Psychological suspense NZ Thriller Concerns the high pressured life of medical and law students.