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

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Anyone who follows ice skating on TV is no doubt impressed by the knowledge of the commentators. "This competition has been held at this venue for 22 of the last 24 years, and each time the contestant with the most sequins on her costume has won." This arcane information is complied by people like Rebecca "Bex" Levy, a figure-skating researcher for the 24/7 network.

The premise of Murder on Ice owes much to the 2002 Olympics, when consensus said that the Canadian pairs skaters should have won the gold medal, but they were denied by a French judge, who later resigned in disgrace. In this case, an American skater, Erin Simpson, loses the gold in the world championship to a Russian skater, who, according to the commentators, skated a less challenging program and should have won only the silver but was put into first place by the vote of an Italian judge, Silvana Potenza, who soon turns up dead. Gil Cahill, Bex's irascible boss, orders her to solve the murder before the special he's preparing for a Sunday airing.

With nary a clue to go on, Bex plods along against her deadline. Why is retired (at a very early age) millionaire Jasper Clarke always hanging around with Erin and her mother? Why is Erin's mother, former skating champion, Patty Simpson, unwilling to allow her daughter any life of her own and also unwilling to allow Bex to talk to Erin alone, something Bex accomplishes only with a subterfuge, turning Patty against Jasper? Why were the Russian coaches (most of whom dislike one another) huddled at the pay phone in the arena?

Adams very cleverly makes no one a viable suspect and then turns around and makes everyone a viable suspect. The novel is filled with humor, shown in Bex's exchange with Xenia's (gold medal winner) coach, Sergi. "'You think I killed her.' Like Xenia, Sergei did not so much ask a question as make a statement. Bex wondered if this was another side of the Russian psychology. After a century of borderline psychotic leadership, they were much more accustomed than Americans to being accused of committing random crimes."

Bex is an utterly engaging character, and the reader roots for her at every step. All the secondary characters, from the skaters to the commentators to the coaches, spring vividly to life. Adams knows the ice skating world inside out. However, she never slows the plot with an over abundance of information. The only improbability is the clue that finally leads to the killer.

Reviewed by Mary Elizabeth Devine, November 2003

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