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by Alina Adams
Berkley Prime Crime, November 2003
299 pages
ISBN: 0425193071

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I have to confess that I had to read MURDER ON ICE twice in order to review it because, well, I forgot to pay attention to the plot. This is not because it was badly written, or because the plot and the wrap-up was obscure or anything; it's because I was so wrapped up in the gratifying details of the back story that I got lost. You see, as I write this, skating season has started, and I'm too busy yelling at the television commentators to "shut up" to pay the appropriate attention to Alina Adams' book. But I did read it the second time, I did enjoy it and even if it destroys a tiny bit of my idealization of the sport I love, Murder on Ice is a good book to read.

When someone writes a book about your passion, you get, I think, hyper-critical. There are so many ways to go wrong, and I've not read a lot of satisfying books about figure skating. So when author Alina Adams wrote a mystery involving figure skating, of which I am a long-time, serious fan, she had something to prove to me. And prove she did.á

Adams has worked as a researcher for several networks, including ESPN, providing information, background, statistics to the on-air announcers. And it shows, but in a good way; her protagonist, Bex Levy, not surprisingly, a t.v. researcher for the "24/7" network. Bex never drones on boringly about someone's facts, but at the same time, does educate the reader as to what that job is, what she does and why she does it.

I probably spent too much time, and way more time than you will, on trying to figure out just which character was modeled on what real-life person, but never mind. This is a good mystery. I had moments of wanting to whap Bex, who keeps saying incredibly dumb things like "that's how it happens in mystery fiction" which is the stupidest thing anyone could possibly think. But Bex, whose job seems to hinge on finding out who killed the Italian judge whose vote might have compromised the Ladies' competition, gets serious about solving the puzzle. Her screaming jerk of a boss, who never seems to see the human dimension of murder, but only how it will boost ratings, was awful, and I wanted to read less about him. But all the other characters, from the horrible "America's sweethearts" commentators to the skating moms, the skaters themselves, come across well - some dumb, some smart, some ambitious beyond belief, some skating because it's what they do.á

The police seem a tad dumb in this story, but they're not the story's focus. Still, the way Silvana Potenza died is too weird to be an "accident" and there's no way it would be suicide; the judge had no reason to be where she was, and the death is written of by the cops a tad too quickly.

Bex is trying her best to solve a crime, which is not exactly something she knows how to do (yay, an amateur protagonist who doesn't think it's easy!) but she really should know better. On reflection, I realize that much of Bex's behavior has to do with her relative youth; that need to hold the job, but her lack of sophistication, assumptions that things in life are the way they are in books and on television, her attempts to con people into doing something, and much of the stuff that made me roll my eyes comes from the author's deliberate creation of a young woman trying to impress her boss and keep her job. It's skillful writing, and subtle enough that I really had to think to realize "no, dummy, Bex is not dumb, she's young, relatively inexperienced, finding her own and and doesn't know what people DO know 25 years later in life."

I hope to read more in this series; at the same time, I hope some of the broader elements are toned down. In emails with the author, I was informed that, alas, she didn't exaggerate and that the people and things she described are like that or worse in real life. I'm afraid I believe her, darn it, but in the long run, I prefer reading about a realistic world, especially from an expert who knows that world, even if it means diminishing my ideals of what I wish it were like. I mean I'm not na´ve. Never was, nope, not me.

Reviewed by Andi Shechter, October 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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