Murder on Ice, Alina Adams, Berkley Prime Crime, $5.99.
I think one of the reasons I enjoy Figure Skating so much is that the centerpiece event of any championship - National, International or Olympic - is not the men's final but the ladies final. Women rule in figure skating, and in Alina Adams' first figure skating mystery, she naturally focuses her attention on the penultimate event, the Ladies Final at Worlds. In real life, of course, Michelle Kwan has dominated figure skating for over a decade - in Adam's novel, a fresh faced American dukes it out with a more cynical Russian, and the final result ends up being a scandal - did the American or the Russian deserve to win? That's really the central question of the novel, and the judge who gets bumped off is kind of a bonus. If you are a skating fan at all, the whole set up will remind you of the pairs uproar at the last Olympics, where the Canadians were eventually allowed to share a gold medal with the Russian pair.
Adam's central character, "Bex" Levy, has the job Adams held in real life - she was a researcher for ABC sports, covering Nationals, Worlds and Europeans. A researcher apparently has the task of putting together a giant notebook of facts about each skater - what jumps they have scheduled,where they found their costumes, what their music is, who their choreographer is, etc. - for the on air talent to refer to when calling the event live. Adams shows some real skills as a humorist when she portrays the two hosts of the figure skating broadcasts as a married pair of former champions who bicker endlessly off the air. Their off air dissection of each skater before the event is hilarious - and to a skating fan, utterly delicious.
In fact, the book is filled with lots of sly humor, enough so that I didn't really care that I figured out who the killer was before the end of the book. Adams still managed to include some plot surprises, and she was skillful at portraying several of the characters with some depth, enough to make you wonder which way they might have actually behaved. All in all, this is a light enjoyable read - probably only for the serious skating fan - and it should whet your appetite for the upcoming World Championships in March. Go, Michelle!
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