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by Alina Adams
Berkley, January 2006
224 pages
ISBN: 0425206858

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

So there I was, watching the opening day of the Winter Olympics in Turin and reading Alina Adams' very entertaining AXEL OF EVIL.

Let's make it clear at the start that this book isn't deep and meaningful. In fact, it probably counts as a cozy (don't ask me, I don't usually read 'em!) But I'll read almost anything with sport in. And hey, I'll cut a lot of slack to a book which I read in one sitting and which makes me smile.

Bex Levy is a researcher for TV network 24/7. And murder appears to follow her around, as she explains early on how she found herself investigating two murders in previous books. This time, she's doing it on the say-so of her very annoying boss Gil Cahill who has air time to fill.

This time she has to find out who killed an ice skating coach during the run-up to a competition in Moscow. Igor Marchenko defected from the USSR to the States in 1977 and this is the first time he's been able to return home. But he soon turns up dead, poisoned by a pair of gloves. And once Bex does the rounds, she finds out that plenty of people had reason to bump him off.

Adams just about gets away with the amateur sleuth thing here, as reporters and researchers are paid to ask questions. But people are surprisingly tolerant of Bex nosing around and asking questions.

The Cold War and defectors angle feels a bit old hat, but maybe I've just OD'd on thrillers over the years. The one bit I did have trouble accepting was that an American skater would dredge up a Russian grandmother so she could could represent that country. Given the strength of depth there, wouldn't it make more sense to go poking round Europe and find a nice, convenient relation born in the UK? But then of course that would blow a slightly flimsy plot angle out of the water!

Bex is a bit naive, but she accepts at the end that it was the questions she didn't ask, rather than those she did, which meant the murderer stayed hidden.

AXEL OF EVIL is a pleasant, good-humoured book, though. Bex has some sharp lines, and I laughed aloud at the scene in the commentary box where she's sitting between feuding husband and wife presenters.

Maybe not a row of sixes, but there are some fours and four and a halves in there!

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, February 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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