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by Alina Adams
Berkley, December 2007
224 pages
ISBN: 0425218031

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Lucian Pryce is the doyen of ice skating coaches. So it looks like a real career opening for 24/7 TV network researcher Bex Levy when she's offered the chance to produce a tribute to him. Sadly, though, Lucian falls on the ice and dies just as they start filming.

Bex, who's 25 going on 15, sets out to do her usual 'I must find the murderer so 24/7 can get the exclusive' routine except this time no one believes Lucian was murdered and her usually pushy boss Gil tells her to get on with producing the tribute. And she's also distracted by the fact her boyfriend Craig Hunt has proposed to her. The fact he's ten years her senior is one of the things bugging her.

Alina Adams clearly knows the ice skating world inside-out, and there's some fascinating back history about the struggles black skaters faced in the US. But in this outing she's taken away what's made previous books in the series so enjoyable Bex's tenacity, her ability to open mouth and to insert foot, and the supporting cast of her TV colleagues. Gil appears only in the background, and there's only the briefest mention of the feuding husband and wife commentators who've been my favourite part of earlier books.

By taking the focus of the book away from Bex, the fluency of the plotting and structure suffers too. There's one chapter with Bex, a peep into the email messageboards, then a chapter from the point of view of one of the women surrounding Lucian, then back to Bex . . . It turns into a real plod and I lost interest a good way before the end of a fairly short book.

In fact, SKATE CRIME barely seems like crime fiction only Bex believes Lucian was murdered, and the police show up briefly early on. She has problems convincing them and the people around Lucian that the death is suspicious, and consequently the reader isn't convinced either.

Following Lucian's death at the start of the book, it takes until about page 150 for there to be any more excitement, and if you blink you'll miss it. In the meantime it's a procession of people's stories, rather clumsily presented as biography. These really do gum up the action, as every time something looks like happening, these back stories cut in and all momentum is lost. The ending, too, is ambiguous (and a cop-out), and suggests that this series might be on its last legs.

In the past this has been a cosy series with both bite and humour. Sadly SKATE CRIME lacks all the ingredients that made the previous books so appealing.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, December 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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