Friday, October 05, 2012


I confess, when I originally wrote my Figure Skating Mysteries, Murder on Ice, On Thin Ice, Axel of Evil, Death Drop, and Skate Crime for Berkley Prime Crime, I incorporated a lot of gossip I'd heard backstage working for ABC Sports into my stories.  How could I not?  The stories were so juicy!

Because my books were fiction, I didn't have to investigate whether or not they were true.  If they sounded good and helped my plot along, in they went.  (I also incorporated a lot of stories I knew to be true, but wasn't about to name names for publicly, for fear of lawsuits or, worse, unemployment.  There is a disclaimer at the front of each book that say the characters bear no relation to anyone living or dead, and I'm sticking by them.)

In Axel of Evil, the third book in the series, the following exchange occurs when our heroine, TV researcher, Bex Levy, catches Brittany Monroe, an American girl skating for the Russian team (due to one grandparent having been Russian), trying to make off with her primary competition's skates....

Bex stated the obvious. "Those aren't your skates."

Brittany looked down at the golden skates she was cradling in first position. The blades of each skate were digging into her elbows. Eight metal hooks at the ankles had already snagged a few loose cherry threads. She wrinkled her brow, either suffering from temporary amnesia or painfully trying to summon up a good reason to contradict Bex. 

"Yes, they are."  Then Brittany conceded, "No, they're not."

Bex stated the obvious. "They're Galina's."

This time, Brittany didn't even stop to think. "Yes. They are."

"Are you taking them for a walk?" Bex inquired politely. "Is that a Russian team tradition? Sort of like a wacky initiation?  What's going on?"


"Why do you have Galina's skates?"

"I... uhm... I..."

Bex sighed. Why was it, in books, sleuths always had brilliant—sociopathic, but brilliant—nemesis to match wits with. While Bex was up against folks too stupid to even try making up an on-the-ball excuse. Just standing here, Bex could think of several credible lies for Brittany to wriggle with. How about: "She left them behind in the locker room and I'm returning them to her."

Or, "She asked me to take them to the skate sharpener's."

Or, "The Russian Skating Federation is so poor now, the skaters have been told we're going to be sharing boots."

Bex considered sharing any of the above with Brittany. Surely, even a scripted answer would be better than the current, all-vowel stuttering. Especially when the real answer was obvious to anyone with eyes. And a suspicious worldview.

Luckily, Bex fit both bills.

She allowed Brittany's silence to flop about like a newborn's limbs for a few more seconds. Then she got bored. And she accused, "You were going to dump Galina's skates in the refrigeration room.

Brittany stopped trying to talk. And just shrugged. She looked down at the floor. But, for a moment, Bex thought she caught the teen peeking defiantly up at Bex, as though simultaneously embarrassed and proud of her actions.

"Not very sportsmanlike behavior, Britt."

"Who the hell cares?" Even the kittens on her sweater quivered with indignation. "What about the way she treats me? What about the way they all treat me?"

Bex really did see her point. And, being only a few years older than Brittany, she had no interest in going all "listen to your elders" on her with a lecture about why it was wrong to cheat and steal. To be honest, Bex was less interested in the right and wrong on display here, and more about getting the whole story in case she decided to pitch it as a 24/7 feature for Gil.

"How long has this been going on?" she asked Brittany. "The Russian team dissing you like they did after practice today?"

At the time I wrote this back in 2005, there were certainly rumors of similar sabotage. But now, Phillip Hersh of the Chicago Tribune reports:

Saying he acted on orders from national team head coach Jae Su Chun, U.S. short-track speedskater Simon Cho admitted to having tampered with the skates of a Canadian athlete at the 2011 World Team Championships in Warsaw, Poland.

The sabotage, which involved skater Olivier Jean, kept his Canadian team, the bronze medalists, from contending for the gold or silver medal.  

Read the entire expose at:,0,6242424.story

And ponder whether truth really is stranger (and meaner) than fiction.

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