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ON THIN ICE
by Alina Adams
Berkley Prime Crime, October 2004
256 pages
$5.99
ISBN: 0425198847


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It's the start of another figure skating season and time to celebrate with a new skating mystery by Alina Adams -- clever of those publisher types to time the book's release in October. Just in time to catch this reviewer rolling her eyes at the television screen and wondering if she can attend Nationals just one more time.

In MURDER ON ICE we dealt with cheating judges at figure skating events (no, that never happens!). Here, the story is not quite as immediate, but has a little more heft to it; young television researcher Bex Levy is invited to watch a young man (he's only 13 and yet, he won his regional championship) skate. He's simply brilliant even at his age, but his father will not let him go to the National Championships.

As Bex pursues what she thinks makes a good story (there are parents who would do horrendous things to be where Jeremy's father is), Jeremy and Craig simply disappear. Since Bex put her career with 24/7 on the line for this story she wants to know what exactly is going on here.

The strength of Adams' stories is her inside knowledge; the reminder to fan and non-fan alike that for all its beauty and perkiness and endless smiley goodwill, skaters and coaches and parents are all real people, with flaws. Here you need to add in talent and often driving relentless ambition, both on the part of the skaters and the adults around them -- mothers who live through their daughters, coaches who don't seem to realize that yes, skaters need them, but it's the skater who brings the raw talent to the ice.

Bex manages to show some more intelligence than her last outing but I still find her awfully dopey; does anyone above the age of, oh, 10 really think that life is like tear-jerker stories shown on Lifetime? At times I wanted to crow over Bex's humor and wit and her silly but often great asides. At other times, she totally got on my nerves. She has her strong points, sure, determination, an ability to care for people (although her arch too cute "I'm sure there are [fill in your stereotype] who are very nice" asides don't wear well) -- although often it seems that she justifies anything from rudeness to almost deliberate stupidity as ambition and a desire to keep her job and I cannot care.

Maybe it's an age thing; I like my sleuths serious, or at least mature. And while I can understand a lot of Bex's reasoning, and even understand to some extent why she does what she does and why she's so pushy, she's often simply dumb, carried away with some ridiculous idea because she saw it on television. I look forward to the day that Bex grows up.

She's surprisingly endearing for someone who makes me wanna shake her a lot of the time, and I so admire Adams' skill here, since I am very hard on protagonists. I suspect, however, that my problems with Bex's personality belong in that category of "twitches that bugs me and not other readers"; after all, readers love certain mystery writers whose characters are amazingly rude, pushy, self-absorbed and not especially interesting. And Bex certainly is more than that. And while humor is one of those very tough calls in mystery, least the quirky humor in Bex and in ON THIN ICE isn't at someone else's expense.

Bex does mean well and she does try, often, to correct her mistakes, something that those with big egos can't do. And the skating stuff -- the egocentric coaches, the weirdness of pairs skating, the abnormal lives in pursuit of a medal -- all rings real true. So thumbs up for this second mystery from Alina Adams. I hope she keeps them coming; there are so many more 'personalities' to skewer!

Reviewed by Andi Shechter, September 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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