Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Last week, I wrote a post for BlogHer called Top 10 Hilarious Sitcoms Created By Women. Though I listed the shows chronologically, had I ranked them in personal order of preference, number one would, far and away, have been SOAP by Susan Harris.

SOAP is, quite simply, my favorite show of all time. I can watch it over and over again. I have big chunks of dialogue memorized. My brother and I sometimes have entire conversations consisting solely of SOAP quotes (don't judge, we were latch-key children; you can read about our co-dependency, here).

Because of my love for SOAP, I have been waiting with baited breath for literally years now for SOAP: The Unauthorized Inside Story of the Sitcom That Broke All the Rules to finally be published. Late last year, it finally was.

My brother promptly bought it for me, and I promptly read it.

Overall, I enjoyed it. The most fascinating parts were the author's inclusion of the SOAP bible, which indicated how stories were originally intended to go and, in places, explained why they were changed. That's the kind of stuff an uber-fan like me salivates over. There are interviews with the cast and a Where Are They Now section. I would have liked more backstage tales of how particular scenes were conceived and put together, what was improvised and what was scripted, how the actors got into character and how the writers were inspired to make the plot choices they did. But, those are minor quibbles. What I'm saying above is that I liked what was in the book so much that I wanted more of it. (But, I'm greedy that way.)

What stopped me from enjoying the book as much as I'd hoped to, though, was the author's repetitive insistence on proving that while SOAP was a soap spoof and a serial with over the top characters and story-lines, it wasn't *really* a soap, you understand. Because conceding that SOAP was, well, a soap opera, would somehow undermine his thesis statement about the show's importance to the culture.

I don't buy it. For one thing, because the very thing he praises SOAP for - the show's willingness to push the envelope by featuring an openly gay character, by tackling controversial topics of the day like cults and interracial dating and extramarital affairs (even for "nice" housewives) and teachers sleeping with their students and suicide and adoption and defrocked priests - those are all things soap operas were already doing. (Remember the big deal about the ABC TV movie in the late 1980s, Something About Amelia, which tackled father-daughter sexual abuse and incest? Remember the soap opera, Loving, and their story about father-daughter sexual abuse and incest? Remember how it was suddenly cut short? That was because ABC wanted to tout their movie as tackling a heretofore taboo topic. And they didn't need to be reminded that their own network had already been dealing with it for six months. So, yeah, that's the kind of stuff that daytime soaps do.)

And for another thing: While SOAP may have had a live studio audience, the fact of the matter is, viewers didn't just tune in for the chuckles. They tuned in because they genuinely cared about the characters and what happened to them, whether it was Who Shot Peter Campbell, Chester being presumed dead, Eunice running away with an escaped con, a baby possessed by the devil, an alien abduction or a Latin American revolutionary plotting to knock over a Communist regime from his base in Connecticut.

The situations were broad and ridiculous and over the top. But the feelings behind them were real and heartfelt and as capable of bringing tears of empathy as they were of laughter.

You know, just like soap operas.

And, in my book, at least, that's not an insult. That's a compliment.

Monday, January 20, 2014


 How did those skating videos get into that Figure Skating Mystery novel?

I explain the process by which my five Figure Skating Mystery novels, originally published by Berkley Prime Crime, were turned into enhanced ebooks with videos by The Ice Theatre of NY!

Listen below!

Thursday, January 16, 2014


It's here! All 5 books in the Alina Adams Figure Skating Mystery series are finally available in one volume, featuring all the text of the original Berkley Prime Crime paperback releases as well as the Ice Theatre of NY videos of the enhanced multimedia editions!

At only $9.99, Figure Skating Mystery (5 Books in 1) is cheaper than buying each title individually for $2.99 a piece.

Check it out on Amazon and B&N and get into the Olympic spirit!

Critical praise for Alina Adams Figure Skating Mystery series:

"Murder on Ice" mirrors events from the (2002) Winter Olympics. Corrupt judging, cutthroat battles between the skaters, and the behind-the-scenes viewpoint all help to add depth to this unique mystery.
- Roundtable Reviews

Adams uses her extensive knowledge of the real-life world of competitive figure skating to create a very realistic background for this murder - and possible blackmail - mystery, complete with hints of dark humor. A likable, down-to-earth heroine makes this a must-read for cozy mystery fans with a fascination for figure skating.
- Romantic Times Magazine

The book nails a triple Axel... in its description of the beautiful but bizarre world of figure skating, where skating talent is only the beginning of the package necessary to make it big. Female skaters, especially, need a pretty face and a good story to hold the public’s interest, and millions of dollars in ice shows and product endorsements can be at stake. Adams’ expertise is obvious, as is her exasperated affection for the sport.
- TheMysteryReader.com

Adams... has the wacky, incestuous world of skating down cold - from Russian coaches to skating moms to groupie fans to prepubescent stars.
- Philip Hersh, Chicago Tribune

If you are even a casual fan of figure skating, you will love this book.
- The Romance Readers Connection

Fans of figure skating will laugh out loud at the descriptions of the skaters, attitudes, costumes and stunts. Non-fans will revel in the finely crafted mystery. Bex Levy is a great protagonist who is prone to talking to herself, putting her foot in her mouth, and slashing at people with blades of sarcasm. Alone, the humor in ON THIN ICE makes it a good book; combined with the interesting characters and suspense, it is a great book.
- The Best Reviews

Hot blood runs rampant in the ice cold world of figure skating. No one knows this better than Rebecca "Bex" Levy, junior researcher for a 24/7 Sports New York cable network. The plucky, self-deprecating heroine of On Thin Ice, the second installment in Alina Adams' unique new series, knows that the cutthroat road to gold medal glory is long and arduous and filled with the drama of bitter rivalries, overbearing moms and dads and contentious coaches who will stop at nothing to get their latest skating prodigy one triple Axel closer to the top of the heap.
- Mystery Ink

Alina Adams certainly knows her stuff (being a real-life TV researcher just like her heroine) and this shows, always a good thing…. There is some fine satire in here, and Alina Adams is adept at portraying typical skating types and typical skating fans. Perhaps what I enjoyed the most here was the delineation of modern Russia, and the vast difference between the country today and how it was back when Igor defected to the US…. The whole (plus the fairly intricate plot) makes for a good tale to please a skating fan who enjoys a good whodunit too.
- MyShelf.com

This series is light reading, with a lot of self-deprecating humor tossed in by the protagonist, Bex Levy. I like the returning characters with all of their quirks, and the light sense of romance that is included, as well as the eye-opening information and the behind-the-scenes look at a popular sport.
-Gumshoe Reviews

Funny, outrageous, scandalous and chaotic, Adams' books are a guilty pleasure - a glimpse into the crazy side of figure-skating rendered with cutting wit and ever more bizarre soap opera turns. The characters are vividly rendered and often larger than life… Overall, a satisfying - and very swift - read. It's amazing to me that Adams can turn out multiple books with this energy. It must be exhausting to write.
- Goodreads

Monday, January 13, 2014



I am thrilled to announce that, starting this week, all five books in the Alina Adams Figure Skating Mystery series, including "Murder on Ice," "On Thin Ice," Axel of Evil," "Death Drop" and "Skate Crime," will be available in one volume and priced at $9.99 (as opposed to $2.99 each)!

This omnibus edition will feature all the text of the original, Berkley Prime Crime paperback releases, as well as all the complimentary Ice Theatre of NY videos of the enhanced multimedia editions. (Read/watch an excerpt from each title in the posts directly below this one.)

Buy links coming shortly. But, first, what do you think of the cover?

Friday, January 10, 2014


Day 5 of the US Figure Skating Championships means a preview of  "Skate Crime: Enhanced Multimedia Edition," the fifth and final book in the Figure Skating Mystery series, now available as an ebook with video!  (Compare its bargain price of $2.99 with the $6.99 the original publisher, Berkley Prime Crime, is charging for just the ebook with no special multimedia features.)

While all five of my Figure Skating Mysteries, including "Murder on Ice," "On Thin Ice," "Axel of Evil" and "Death Drop" are already pretty soapy and filled with family drama, twists and turns, and juicy secrets, "Skate Crime" is also the book with the most romance in it as pretty much every possible motive for who killed the world-famous skating coach on the eve of his televised tribute comes down to love gone wrong... and right.

Please enjoy the excerpt below, and let me know what you think!

Christian Kelly just showed up in her office one day, no appointment, no introduction. He obviously expected her to know who he was.

Gabrielle wondered if she was also supposed to genuflect.

"You're looking for a head coach," he said.

"The sky is blue," Gabrielle replied. When he looked at her blankly, she explained, "I assumed we were exchanging declarative statements. Your turn."

Obviously, grammar humor wasn't Chris's cup of tea.

"I am willing to do it," he said.

"And 'it' would be... ?"

"Willing to take the head coach job. I know nobody else wants it."

"Do you have any experience in the field, Mr. Kelly?"

"Like what, now?"

"Oh, let's start simple: Have you ever coached before?"


"Really? I don't think I've ever heard of you — "

"Well, in a matter of speaking. I choreograph all my own routines."

"So you're used to working with difficult students."

“And for the past few years, on tour, I have done the group numbers, as well.”

Ah. Now that did finally ring a bell for Gabrielle. She'd heard from more than one former rink-mate about what precisely a Christian Kelly “group” routine consisted of. “It’s a Chris Kelly solo, with the rest of us skating around in circles, pointing in his direction. Even when he’s not actually on the ice, he figured out a way to loom larger than life over the rest of us.”  (Click link to watch video.)

"That's not exactly coaching."

"Close enough, I'd say."

"Shouldn't you be on tour right now? It's the middle of the season."

"I had a bit of an injury. Knees aren't what they used to be. I'm to be out for the next few months, they tell me. So I thought..."

"This is a full-time position."

"I told you I was out for a few months. Won't be going anywhere."

"And after that?"

"Who thinks that far ahead?"

"People who run training centers and enroll students based on the promise of a coach being there when he says he will."

"Look, life is mercurial, is it not? Nobody knows where they'll end up one day to the next.  I said I'm available for the next few months. What say we leave it at that and see where it goes?"

"Why do you want this job so badly, Mr. Kelly?"

"Didn't say I wanted it.  Said I was willing to do it. Now are we on or not?"

Gabrielle wanted very much to throw Chris out of her office. She couldn't imagine dealing with his arrogance for even the vaguely promised few months.

On the other hand, she could imagine printing up the new season's brochures without a big-name coach to advertise. And what her response would be.

She asked Chris, "When can you start?"

Read more in "Skate Crime: Enhanced Multimedia Edition" on Amazon and B&N!

Thursday, January 09, 2014


Day 4 of the 2014 US Figure Skating Championship and you know what that means! A preview of the 4th book in my Figure Skating Mystery series, Death Drop! (See excerpts from Murder on Ice, On Thin Ice and Axel of Evil in the blog posts below.)

I originally posted this sneak peek in September as evidence that anything a writer can come up with... the real world can top!



2011 World Figure Skating Champion Miki Ando announced this week that she was planning a comeback, hoping to compete at the 2014 Sochi Olympics... six months after giving birth to a baby girl.

Her single parenthood (she's declined to name the father) seems to be quite the scandal in her native Japan, leading to public debate on the subject of illegitimate births.

Personally, I'm more curious about whether or not Miki will be able to skate on a serious, eligible level after becoming a mother. (Updated to add: Ando finished 7th at the Japanese Nationals and did not make the 2014 Olympic team.)

Pairs skater Ekaterina Gordeeva returned to the Olympic to win gold for a second time a few years after her daughter, Daria, was born.  And Canada's Kristy Sargeant also continued to skate in pairs after her own daughter, Triston, was born.  So did ice-dancer Isabelle Delobel, who made it to the 2010 Olympics four months after the birth of her son.

The New York Times wrote:

But Delobel’s maternity tale is more complex because she is part of a pair, which is not, in this case, a reference to her husband, Ludovic Roux.

The petite, dark-haired Delobel and the tall, blond Schoenfelder, both from France, were world champions in 2008 and were looking like favorites for the gold medal in Vancouver after climbing the ranks for many years, an ice dance prerequisite, and finishing fourth in the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy.

But a shoulder injury that Delobel sustained in December 2008 during an exhibition interrupted their season, and it was during her injury layoff that she became pregnant.

“I was still convinced we’d make it to the Olympics,” said Delobel, 31, in an interview after the compulsory dance Friday night in Vancouver.

The reaction from their rivals is a blend of admiration for Delobel’s ability to return so quickly and of sympathy for Schoenfelder.

“I think if that had been me, Fabian would have reacted very badly,” said the French ice dancer Nathalie Pechalat, standing next to her partner Fabian Bourzat on Friday. “When you skate 20 years with someone with the dream of an Olympic medal, it’s a big thing. I think you really have to maximize your chances, and obviously, the preparation year before the Games is very important.”

In Death Drop, I told the tale of a competitive ice-dancer whose pregnancy not only throws a monkey-wrench into the life of her partner, but also of the various Daddy candidates around the rink - and their significant others. (Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.  That's my story and I'm sticking with it. ;P)



At first, no one realized he was even there.

Though the Pasadena Dome in Southern California could accommodate up to fifteen thousand spectators, on the morning of the Senior Dance Compulsory run-through at the U.S. Figure Skating Championship, the only people in the arena were the five dance teams making up Practice Group "B," their coaches, a handful of parents, and about fifty hard-core skating fans — middle-aged women bundled up in sweatshirts and fur-lined parkas who believed that their All-Event Nationals Tickets really, really meant All-Event.

They had the Championship's program on their laps, a thermos full of coffee in their left hand, and a pen in their right, ready to jot down who'd deigned to attend the early morning practice, which team was skating to what music, and how their edges looked compared to their opponents' twizzles versus the other's Choctaws and Mohawks. Some of the fans even had laptop computers for on-the-spot Internet reports. They were the easiest ones to spot, since they absolutely had to be sitting next to a phone jack, and tended to get very cranky if blocked.

They also liked to sit in the front rows, since that made it easier to eavesdrop on what the coaches, standing at the barrier, were whispering to their students on the ice. The bulk of the advice seemed to be, "Push. Push. Push!" making most dance practices feel more like natural childbirth classes, especially when that advice was often followed by, "Just ignore the pain for now. It will be worth it in the end."

The dancers all listened keenly, nodded intensely, blew their noses, took a sip of bottled water, then joined hands and whipped around to — more often than not — make the same mistake, prompting the coaches to groan and that groan to echo off the cavernous arena. At that Sigh of Ultimate Despair, the skaters' parents, who previously had been sitting hunched over in their seats, trying to calculate how many hours of sleep they had lost per lifetime after a decade of racing to 5:00 A.M. practices, would snap to attention as if slapped and commence staring pointedly at their offspring, as if their focus — and their focus alone — was what might keep the kids upright for the duration of their event.

"That concludes practice time for the Paso Doble. Our next dance will be the Killian," intoned a sleepy announcer's voice as the arena was engulfed in shrill and painfully peppy music. The Killian was a march, and one of the fastest ice dances in existence. While two sequences of the Ravensburger Waltz took fifty-eight seconds to skate, and two patterns of the Tango Romantica filled a leisurely, practically restful, one minute and forty-three seconds, the Killian required six sequences to be whipped through in exactly fifty seconds.

On cue, all of the couples who'd previously been facing each other for the Paso Doble, turned so that both were facing in the same direction, the man's right hand clasping the lady's right palm and pressing it to her hip, his left hand extending her left arm across the front of his body. Their expressions of fiery, Spanish intensity morphed into mindless, noncountry-specific glee, and off they went in a counterclockwise circle, cheerfully pretending that their hearts weren't ready to explode out of their chests from exertion, or that the squishy feeling in their socks was merely wholesome sweat rather than blood from freshly opened blisters.

This time the scream emanating from their coaches was, "Cross behind! Damn it, how many times do we have to go over this? Cr! Oss! Be! Hind! Boot! Touching! Boot! It doesn't do anybody any good if you cross behind without the boots touching!"

The dancers all listened keenly, nodded intensely, blew their noses, took a sip of bottled water, and tried their best.

As the practice drew to a close, the mood in the arena grew more desperate. Coaches who'd spent the past year trying to get their points across realized that they had literally four more minutes to make an impression. Skaters who'd spent the past year just ignoring the pain, understood that they had four more minutes to get their steps right, or all that suffering would amount to nothing. Their parents were already giving up on this season and making plans for the next — maybe a new coach was in order, maybe a new partner. The spectators started typing their concluding thoughts onto the Internet. It wasn't until after "Group B" finished their run-through, and "Group A" stomped in to take their place, bringing with them a new contingent of frustrated coaches, sleepy parents, and rabid fans, that anyone even noticed the abandoned baby.

He was so tiny, he couldn't even hold his head up in his car seat, needing to be propped up by one of the straps. He wore a newborn-size blue snowsuit with a hood, gloves, and booties, and seemed not so much scared as befuddled by the crowd that gathered around him after the first yelp. He blinked, sleepy and unfocused, then arched his back, yawned, stretched, and smacked his lips.

"He's hungry," one of the skating moms said. But seemed stymied over what to do about that fact.

"He looks like he's all by himself," came another statement of the obvious.

"We should call someone."

"I wonder where his mother is."

"We should get someone."

"Yes. Someone should get someone."

Eventually it was the referee who decided that his authority to make all calls for a given event included determining the fate of a baby abandoned on his watch. He picked up the surprisingly light car seat and moved toward the Championship's accounting office. He called the police, telling them they had an unaccompanied infant on their hands, with no idea of who or where the mother might be.

However, twenty minutes later, when the LAPD arrived, the referee nervously had to tell them that now he actually did have some idea of who, and even where, the mother might be.

He thought she might be Allison Adler, a nineteen-year- old former national ice-dancing champion who was now hanging, dead, from the ceiling of the costume room, a red leather belt with sparkles on the buckle tightened around her neck....

Wednesday, January 08, 2014


It's Day #3 of the 2014 US Figure Skating Championships, which means it's time for an excerpt from Book #3 of my Figure Skating Mystery series, Axel of Evil. (See Book #2, On Thin Ice, and Book #1, Murder on Ice, in the posts directly below this one.)

While Russia has been all over the news recently about the dangers international skaters may face in Sochi during  the upcoming Olympics, the fact of the matter is, the former Soviet Union has always been an unsafe place, not just for visitors who might hold views different from the ruling government's but, even more, for citizens who dared do the same.

Axel of Evil tells the story of what happens to one champion skater when he defects from the USSR to America - and when he dares to come back....


Figure skating champion Igor Marchenko twice made the front page of the New York Times.

The first time, in 1977, he was fourteen years old, a green stalk of a boy wearing an oversized down jacket and ill-fitting boots stained with gray Moscow slush, nervously run­ning his hands through fine ash blond hair that looked like it had been chopped by the same blind barber who used to hack at Prince Valiant. His freshly bruised eyes looked as though he were afraid to take in the full consequences of what he'd just done. But, at the same time, his lips were set in the firm determination of a man twice his age, ready to take responsibility for his actions.

At the height of the U.S.-U.S.S.R. Cold War, the all-capital letter headline above his slightly out of focus, black and white Associated Press wire photo triumphantly taunted: "DEFECTING!"

No one could blame them for the big type. It was a su­perb story, thoroughly worthy of braggadocio coverage, even by a newspaper as traditionally averse to headline-blaring yellow journalism as the Times. For, even as Moscow played host to the 1977 World Figure Skating Championships, the Russian Men's Bronze Medallist had ducked his KGB guards and snuck out of the athletes' hotel, braving subzero temperatures to cross several blizzard-ravaged miles on foot in the middle of the night. He arrived at the American embassy hours before it opened and buried himself in the snow beneath a pair of bushes by the front gates to avoid being seen by passersby. He huddled there, shivering to near convulsions, until sunup, when he was finally able to stumble inside the embassy, and, teeth chat­tering beneath frozen black and blue lips, a Russian accent fighting for authority over a cracking, adolescent tenor, he blurted out, "I defect."

The Soviet Skating Federation, naturally, put up an in­vasion-force-sized clamor, claiming that the boy had been coerced, bribed, kidnapped, and any other relevant term they could coax out of their handy Russian/English dictionaries. But, Igor, with a poise and calm utterly unexpected of a one-hundred-and-twenty-pound ninth-grader, remained firm in his convictions. The only time he came even close to wavering was when the president of the skating federation dragged Igor's mother, older sister, and brother-in-law to the side­walk outside the U.S. embassy, where Igor could clearly see them from the window. The federation head handed the American ambassador a note to pass on to the boy. It read, "You will never, ever see them again."

Igor came to the window, and he stared at his family. His mother was crying. His sister was crying. Igor was crying. But, after a tense, hour-long standoff, he simply turned around and walked away.

Eventually, the Soviets gave up. They had to. Young Igor certainly showed no signs of doing so. And, after nearly a month of high-pressure tactics, they allowed their top male skater to be taken to the United States.

There, he received the hero's welcome traditionally re­served for World Series champions, astronauts, and Girl Scouts who have sold the most cookies. He met with the president. He chatted with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. (Well, technically, Johnny chatted with Ed McMahon about how wild and wacky it was that male skaters wore all those sequins on their costumes and they did those jumps where they spun round and round—how did they keep from feeling dizzy or getting a sequin in their eye?—while Igor sort of nodded politely, smiled, waved at the camera, and looked desperate to defect again, this time from Burbank.)

Donations poured in from well-wishers eager to help the young hero continue his skating career in the U.S.A. The United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) gave him free room and board at their Olympic training center in Hartford, Connecticut, and pressured their congressman to rush through Igor's citizenship papers so that he could rep­resent the U.S. at the 1982 Olympics. Actually, they were really hoping that he could represent them in 1978, but that, the congressman told the USFSA, was really pushing things. U.S. citizenship usually took seven years to finalize. The right word to the right people might be able to speed up some paperwork and make it five years, but a single year was out of the question. As a result, even though Igor won the 1978 U.S. National Championships (with so many 6.0's one newspaper compared him to Damian, the boy with the 666 tattooed into his skull from the then-hit movie, The Omen), it was the runner-up and 1977 champion, one Gary Gold, who went to the 1978 Olympics and finished in sev­enth place, very respectable for a seventeen year old at his first Games. But, not nearly as respectable as the silver medal Igor won at the World Championships a month later. (He would have won Gold, USFSA officials insisted pub­licly, if those crooked Russian judges hadn't all ganged up with the Polish, Czech, and East Germans against him. How typical.)

Four years later, Igor did win Gold, not just at the Worlds, but at the Olympics, as well. This time, however, his exploits weren't earth-shattering enough to merit the front page of the Times. Sure, it was a gold medal won for the U.S., their single one of those entire Games, but, it was only in figure skating, after all. Not in a real sport, like, oh, say, golf.

And so, Igor had to wait over a quarter of a century to get his second front-page news story.

In the meantime, he retired from amateur competition, skated professionally for a few years, then became a coach at the same Olympic training center that had once taken him in.

“To pay back a debt," he explained.

"Aw..." everyone thought.

And, in the end, it was his coaching success that, in De­cember of 2005, brought a now forty-two-year-old Igor Marchenko back to Russia for the first time since his chilly desertion.

Igor's top student, 2005 U.S. Ladies' Silver Medallist, Jordan Ares, had been invited, along with her teammate, 2005 U.S. Ladies' Bronze Medallist Lian Reilly—Gary Gold's top student—to skate in a "U.S. vs. Russia" made- for-TV event in Moscow.

At first, Igor refused to attend. Exactly the same way he'd refused to attend any other competition held on Soviet soil while he was an amateur, and on formerly Soviet soil once he was a coach. It wasn't until the Russian Figure Skating Federation's president personally issued an invitation, a sort of "Come home, all is forgiven; Love & Kisses, Russia— PS: We'll even let you see your family again, isn't that ter­ribly nice of us?" missive, that Igor agreed to the trip.

This news made the 24/7 Sports Television Network very, very happy. Sure, it was in their contract to cover the event anyway, but now, on top of the up-close-and-personal profiles they were planning to tell all along—Lian vs. Jor­dan, their final head-to-head before the 2006 Nationals, where, due to the retirement of Erin Simpson, the 2005 champion, the U.S. ladies crown was at stake, and during an Olympic year to boot—now, they actually had a naturally (as opposed to a manufactured) dramatic story to tell: "Igor Marchenko Comes Home for the First Time."

Oh, this was going to be a tearjerker, they could just feel it. The produc­ers were already debating whether to use the Beatles's "Back in the U.S.S.R." or John Denver's 'Take Me Home" for the primary background music. (Although everyone agreed that Neil Diamond's "Coming to America" should definitely be played when they recapped the part about his dramatic escape. That one was a gimme.)

Fortunately for the gag reflex of the viewing public, nei­ther ditty came to be. On the day of the first practice in Rus­sia for the American girls and their coaches, Igor Marchenko collapsed in Natzionalnaya Arena. He was dead before the ambulance got there—three and a half hours after it was called.

"Of course, Americans would get the most prompt ser­vice," the arena manager, whom everyone seemed to simply call Shura, groused in Russian. "Special privileges only for Americans."

Lying facedown and inert barely three feet away from the ice surface upon which his star-making competitive career first began, Igor Marchenko finally earned his second New York Times story.

This time, the headline read: "MURDERED!"


Tuesday, January 07, 2014


Day #2 of the US Figure Skating Championship means an exclusive preview of Book #2 in my Figure Skating Mystery series, On Thin Ice.

Just how important are parents in a child's skating success? Very, very important.

But not exactly in the way you might think.....

In their 4-star review of my second Figure Skating Mystery, On Thin Ice, Romantic Times Magazine wrote:

Bex's persistence in solving the murder creates a page-turning read that accurately reveals the dark side of a beautiful sport. Though Jeremy's rapid progress in the sport is somewhat unrealistic, Adams is right on the mark with her portrayal of the time and money spent on training. This satisfyingly suspenseful novel is a treat for mystery readers, especially those enthralled with figure skating.

In the story, Jeremy is a 14 year old skating prodigy, easily whipping out triple jumps that mark him as a future champion and, this being a mystery novel, a kidnapping target.

Please enjoy this excerpt from On Thin Ice, where television researcher Bex Levy learns just how vital a parent's ability to drink coffee is to their child's future skating career.... (For an excerpt from Book #1, Murder on Ice, please scroll down to the previous post.)

"It's Bex, isn't it? Bex Levy? Do you remember me from last season? I'm Amanda Reilly. Lian Reilly's mother."

Lian Reilly was last season's U.S. Ladies' Bronze Medallist. Bex had met them briefly at both the Nationals and the World Championships the previous year.

"Hello, Mrs. Reilly." Bex tried to convey both genuine sincerity and subtle dismissal in the same breath. "Nice to see you again."

"Are you here shooting b-roll for Nationals?" Mrs. Reilly asked.

Shooting b-roll? This woman sure knew her TV jargon, just like Toni. Did everybody in skating these days? Was it as much a part of the program now as learning backward crossovers or a camel spin?

"Yes, for Nationals, and for other events, too."

"Oh, that's wonderful. I'll let Lian know you're here."

"Actually, Mrs. Reilly—"

"Please call me Amanda."

"Actually, Amanda, I'm here to shoot Jeremy Hunt."

Somehow, Bex suspected that if it were at all possible, Lian's mother was about to ask Bex to start calling her Mrs. Reilly again.

Naturally, she didn't. But, she sure did look like she wanted to. Instead, she managed to sputter out, "But—but, Jeremy Hunt, he's one of Toni Wright's students."

"Yes, I know."

“Toni Wright doesn't coach champions."

"I'm sorry, what?" Bex turned around, giving the woman her full attention for the first time since this sycophantic dialogue began. Apparently, her Universal Skating Translator was on the fritz again.
"Oh, you didn't know. Well, that's all right."

"Didn't know what?"

"That Toni Wright is strictly B-level. I mean, don't get me wrong, she seems to be a lovely woman, and I'm sure her life has been full of all sorts of challenges and handicaps and restrictions—I understand that sort of prejudice, myself, of course, because of my own situation."

Bex considered Mrs. Reilly's strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes. "You do?"

"Naturally, I do. And I relate to it wholeheartedly. My own Lian, she's Asian, you know."

Bex resisted the urge to point out that it was sort of hard to miss.

"My husband and I tried to have children for years, and then we tried to adopt domestically and that never worked out. Finally, when we adopted Lian from China, it truly was the happiest day in my life. That's why I named her Lian. Lian means, 'my joy,' you know."

Bex resisted the urge to point out that Mrs. Reilly had already told her all this last year. Instead, she asked a question that had actually been nagging at her since the last time she'd heard the story. "Does it mean 'my joy,' in Chinese?"

"Well, no. I didn't like the Chinese word for joy. Too hard to pronounce. And it was too foreign sounding. Lian is actually Hebrew for 'my joy.'

"Are you Jewish?"

"Irish. But, I liked how it sounded. You know, sort of Chinese, without actually being—"




"But, you see, because of Lian's being Asian and all, I like to think myself particularly sensitive to issues of prejudice. I understand that while it was most likely racism that probably kept Toni from reaching her full potential—"

Toni Wright single-handedly broke the color barrier in American figure skating and went on to win several U.S. titles plus headline a half-dozen ice shows. What was it with these people and their bizarre definition of reaching one's potential?

"—But, the fact is, Toni is a fine coach for beginners and for people who just want to skate for fun or whatever. But, when it comes to training champions, anyone with any kind of potential eventually gets noticed by one of the elite coaches. Gary Gold, or Igor Marchenko. My own Lian, she was five years old when I took her out of lessons with Toni and put her with Gary. I mean, she wouldn't have gotten anywhere taking lessons from Toni."

Bex couldn't believe what she was hearing. "Have you seen Jeremy Hunt skate?"

"It doesn't matter," Mrs. Reilly waved a dismissive hand in the boy's direction. "Everyone knows he isn't champion material."

"Really? And why is that?"

"Well, for one thing, he hasn't hit his growth spurt, yet. No one can judge what kind of skater anyone is going to be until they finish growing and we see the body God has given them."

Well, okay, she did have a point there. Adolescence did tend to wreak havoc with a skater's timing and agility. But, why did Bex think there was more to this than just that?

"And then there's that father of his."

All right, now Mrs. Reilly had Bex's full attention. "What about his father?"

"Well, I'm not one to gossip...."

"Oh, come on," Bex did her best to rein in the irony currently dripping from her every word like a superfluous coat of wet paint. "Just this once."

Mrs. Reilly narrowed her eyes and looked around her, first right, then left, then right again. She was either being very conscientious because she was about to cross the street, or she expected Craig Hunt to suddenly materialize out of thin air, like a Count Dracula of the skating world.

Once she was satisfied that neither was about to happen, Mrs. Reilly stood on her tiptoes so she could reach Bex's ear, and whispered, "There is something seriously wrong with that man."

Oh, that was very helpful. Talk about a lot of drama for absolutely no information. Bex couldn't help thinking of her father, a high school science teacher, who used to lob such bromides both at work and at home as, "Lots is not a number." Bex used to roll her eyes whenever he said it. Except that now she felt a mad urge to tell Mrs. Reilly, "Seriously wrong is not an actual piece of information."

But, seeing as how she was still hoping that Mrs. Reilly might actually bring forth a relevant bit of knowledge, Bex once again restrained her natural tendency toward irony and sarcasm to offer the more neutral, "For instance?"

"Well, for instance," Mrs. Reilly lowered her voice again. "I think he hates skating."

"And this qualifies as something being seriously wrong with a person?"

"With a person whose son is a skater? Yes."

Okay, again, Mrs. Reilly had the beginning of a point.

"What makes you think he hates skating? Have you observed him burning effigies of St. Ludwina?"

Mrs. Reilly stared at Bex strangely. Fortunately, Bex got that sort of thing a lot, so she knew that it meant, "What the heck are you babbling about now, Bex?"

She explained, "St. Ludwina is the patron saint of skaters."


"You can look it up in a book. I'll send you a copy. But, anyhow, you were saying?"

The woman clearly needed another moment to get over her Bex experience. Once she had, though, she promptly launched into, "Mr. Hunt isn't like the other skating parents. For one thing, it's so rare seeing a father bringing his child to the rink. Usually it's the mother mostly. Now, I understand him being a widower and all, what with Mrs. Hunt dying from breast cancer like that, so tragic, really, I understand—"

"Jeremy's mother died of breast cancer?"

"That's what Mr. Hunt told me. But it was many years ago, before they moved to Hartford. I always got the feeling that's why they moved, actually, to get away from the bad memories."

"Where did they come from?"

Mrs. Reilly looked like she'd been blind-sided. "What?"
"You said that Jeremy's mother died before the Hunts moved to Hartford. Where did they move from?"

Mrs. Reilly actually had to stop and think about that. Bex could tell she was thinking because her brow was furrowed and also because, for once, she wasn't talking. Finally, she said, "You know, I don't think he ever mentioned it."

"Okay," Bex said. "I was just curious. Go on."

"Right. Well, anyway, like I was saying, he's a very peculiar man. He brings Jeremy to the rink, but he takes no interest in skating. He never asks questions or talks to the coach about how Jeremy is progressing. It's like he doesn't care."

"Maybe he doesn't."

"Well, it's unnatural. And so is the way he behaves toward the other parents. It's always a polite hello and nothing more. He never stops to chat, he never carpools, he never asks how our children are doing—"

"Do you ever ask him about Jeremy?"

"What? Jeremy? No. How could we? It's not like Mr. Hunt behaves like a normal parent. A normal parent comes in, has a cup of coffee at the snack bar, a little chat, a little conversation. No, it's just in and out with Mr. Hunt, in and out, like some kind of factory time-clock. That's why Jeremy, no matter how talented he is, is never going to make it in skating."

"Because his father doesn't drink coffee?"

"Because his father isn't a part of the community, Ms. Levy. Skating is a very small world. Word gets around when a parent is surly or thinks he's better than the rest of us. Word gets around, and judges take that sort of thing into consideration."

"It can't matter that much. Jeremy won Sectionals."

"Oh, that. That was simply because he skated better than the other boys."

Again, Bex felt like her translator was in the shop. "That's not the name of the game?"

Mrs. Reilly looked at Bex as if she couldn't decide whether to enlighten or pity her. She apparently settled for a combination of both. "Reputation matters in our sport. That's something Mr. Hunt doesn't seem to understand. Keeping Toni as Jeremy's coach when he could have Gary or Igor—I know they've both asked about Jeremy, but Mr. Hunt refuses to switch—is not good for his boy. Plus, there's that patronizing attitude, the aloofness, the indifference. If I didn't know better, Ms. Levy, I would swear that Craig Hunt is deliberately going out of his way to sabotage his son's chances for success in skating. That's why I say Jeremy isn't championship material. He's never going to make it. His father will see to that."

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Monday, January 06, 2014


In honor of the 2014 US Figure Skating Championship currently underway in Boston, MA,I re-post my answer from July 2012 (during the summer Olympics) to the most pressing sports question of our time: Why do broadcast announcers talk so much?

Everyone wonders - now the truth can be told, via an excerpt from Murder on Ice, the first book in the Figure Skating Mystery series! See below!

(And come back every day this week for excerpts from the rest of the books in the Figure Skating Mystery series, On Thin Ice, Axel of Evil, Death Drop and Skate Crime.)


Though I'd already published two non-fiction books about the sport, Inside Figure Skating and Sarah Hughes: Skating to the Stars, friends who knew that I'd spent several years working for ABC Sports, ESPN, TNT, and NBC as a researcher/writer/producer kept asking when I was going to write my "real" skating book.  I.e. the one that revealed all the dirt.
My standard answer was, "When I'm sure I never, ever want to work in televised skating again."
Instead, I wrote five books of fiction, Murder on Ice, On Thin Ice, Axel of Evil, Death Drop, and Skate Crime.  Figure Skating Mysteries where all of the characters therein bear no relation to anyone living or dead.  That's my official story and I'm sticking with it.
On the other hand, ever since NBC began broadcasting the 2012 Summer Olympics last week, I've been reading so much criticism of the jingoism, not to mention the constant announcer chatter, that I thought it might be fun to share what I learned working behind the scenes in network sports regarding why you see what you see, when you see it.
Below is an excerpt from my first Figure Skating Mystery, Murder on Ice.  And if you happen to notice any resemblance to any athlete you've ever heard of... Well, you're just imagining things. ;)

"We're showing the medal contenders and then the third American girl?" Francis stared at his show rundown, a listing of every skater, commercial, and announcer stand-up scheduled to go on air, as if it were the first—rather than the umpteenth—one he'd ever seen.
"That's what it says, doesn't it? Erin Simpson, Jordan Ares, Lian Reilley, and the Russian girl, Xenia Trubin." Diana lingered over the last name, pronouncing it perfectly—Zeh-knee-ah True-bin—and cattishly grinning to drive home the point that, all season, Francis had inevitably stumbled and pronounced it Eks-ee-knee-ay.
"Why show the Reilley girl?" Francis ignored his wife and zeroed in on the point he'd actually wanted to make all along. "She's in seventh place, no chance for a medal. And she skates like she's having a convulsion."
"She's got a triple-triple," Bex pointed out, initially thinking he was asking a legitimate question before realizing that he was actually setting a trap with which to beat Diana over the head and her presence and/or answer was unnecessary. That resolved, Bex went back to twisting the headphone knobs and wearily listening to Gil scream in her ear, "Can everybody hear me? Speak up if you can't hear me!"
Francis challenged the world at large, and Diana in particular, by idly remarking, "A philosophical query, my dear: If a skater only lands her triple-triple in a forest with no little woodland creatures or judges around to see it, when she falls on it every single, single time in competition, does the splat make a noise?"
"Oh, shut up, Frannie." Diana took her seat in the booth and channeled her distaste with Francis's world-famous convoluted metaphors into glaring at her headset, trying to figure out how she could slide the clunky, offending black plastic band and dangling microphone onto her head without disturbing the meticulous French braid she'd spent all afternoon bullying out of the hotel's hairdresser. "Lian Reilley is the designated up-and-comer, she's the U.S. bronze medalist. Besides, we always show the Americans, no matter what place they're in after the short. People want to see Americans."
     "You know, of course," Francis said as Lian’s pre-taped performance played and he crossed both arms behind his head, terrifying Bex into thinking that he was settling in for a long, leisurely argument instead of getting ready for the show, "She doesn't even deserve seventh place. The child was severely overmarked. I fear the judges were so dizzied by those teeny-tiny revolutions of hers, they couldn't focus their Barney Google with the goo-goo-googly eyes enough to notice those choppy little strokes of hers or the fact that her footwork pattern was barely an earthworm, much less a serpentine."
     "Serpentine isn't a noun, Francis." Diana clucked her tongue at him in a gesture of either marital affection or extreme hate. Bex had spent a whole season with the couple. She had yet to figure it out.
     "Lian Reilly—and listen closely to this, Ms. Bex, you might want to write it down—Lian Reilley is precisely what's wrong with women's skating today. She does these tiny jumps that barely leave the ground and then lands in the same place they started from. She can't spin, and she most certainly can't coordinate a movement with a beat of music."
     "She's young.” Diana didn't look at him, but she obviously couldn't resist the rejoinder. "Give her some time. She'll improve her presentation."
     "She's the same age as Jordan Ares," Francis invoked the U.S. silver medalist, "And that girl has music oozing out of her fingertips. Watch Jordan on a practice. Watch her, watch her, I dare you. Any music that's playing, that's the beat she skates to. She doesn't even think about it, she just does it. That's an artist, a true figure skater. And that Russian vision—what's her name again, now?"
     "Xenia Trubin." This time it was Bex's turn to break down and answer Francis, even though she'd sworn and promised herself she wouldn't encourage him.
     "She's the same way. Even when she was little Ms. Reilley's age, goodness, could that girl skate. Couldn't jump to save her life, of course. Back in the old days, Bex, we used to take bets on whether she could actually fall more times than she had jumps planned in her program. But, her skating? Her skating was divine. She can cross the rink in five strokes and not break a sweat. She's a classic skater. A skater's skater. The fact that that wonder hasn't won a world championship in eleven years is a travesty. She's the only one out there who can actually skate!"
     "Do you think the fact that Xenia Trubin hasn't skated a clean program since Yeltsin was president might have something to do with that losing streak of hers?" Diana opened her research manual with an exasperated thunk and thumbed through the pages. "Now, I grant you, she's excellent at waving her arms around to portray Russia's grief over Stalin's five-year plan or some other such high-concept nonsense, but then she friggin’ falls down! Now, if she had half of Erin Simpson's consistency—"
     "She'd be as dull as our little home-fried jumping bean. Erin Simpson can jump. Jump, jump, jump, jump." Francis tucked his elbows into his sides and fluttered his fingers not unlike Tweety Bird. It was a most disturbing image, and Bex whole-heartedly wished he'd cut it out. Putting on a falsetto voice, Francis added,      "And she's so gosh-darn adorable I just want to squash her like a bug." He dropped his arms and, thankfully, the voice, to add, "Adorable is one thing, but the girl is not world champion material. If she wins here, we might as well all slit our wrists and go home. Call it the Jump-O-Matic World Championships, that's what it's become. It's an insult to everyone who ever actually took the time to learn to skate!"
     "The judges disagree with you, and no one seems to be slicing their wrists over it. Erin Simpson has beaten Xenia Trubin four times this year—fair and square, I might add— and I doubt that's going to change at this event."
     "Erin didn't outskate her. Not once."
     "No. But, she outjumped her."
     "You mean she out-stood-up her. Xenia may fall on her jumps, but at least they leave the ground and complete a full rotation. Erin is as bad as Reilley. Who cares if she lands on her foot, when the jump barely left the ground in the first place? It's not figure skating, it's hopscotch!"
     "Landing it is all that matters. You're out of touch, Francis. Face it, deal with it, and shut up about it."
     "You know, my dear, no one's hair actually grows out of their head that color," was Francis's idea of a witty retort to his spouse as he indicated her newly dyed, blonde coiffure and wrapped his headset around both ears, thus effectively ending the conversation.
     Or so he thought.
     Even as Gil was counting down, 'Ten, nine, eight, seven ..." to their live broadcast, Diana reached behind Bex's shoulder, pulled one earflap off of Francis's head, and hissed, "You just wish you still had something left to dye," before letting it snap back against his cheek.
     A split second later, over the television airwaves, viewers were being treated to the cultured, dulcet tones of Diana Howarth, America's sweetheart, sweetly welcoming them to tonight's broadcast of the ladies' long program at the World Figure Skating Championships, even as her husband winced and rubbed his newly bruised cheek.
     "It's wonderful to be here," her tone was all big smiles and perfect, white teeth.
     "Indeed," Francis beamed back, scowl notwithstanding. "We're in for a night of incredible skating. All four of the ladies we're going to show you tonight are incredible artists and technicians, and any one of them could skate away with the gold...."
     Bex took a deep breath. Let the games begin....
     She didn't have to wait long for the fun to start. Lian Reilley was the first broadcast-worthy skater up. As the barely five foot tall, sixteen-year-old, Chinese-American skater in the golden yellow dress with matching ponytail holders and gloves entered the arena, every available 24/7 camera whipped around to capture her awkward, plastic skate-guards-over-blades trudge toward the ice. While Lian looked straight into the lens nearest her, grinned, waved, and shouted, "Hi, everyone back home, I love you!" Bex opened her research manual to the Lian Reilley page and, looking from right to left, made sure that both Howarths had done the same. On the right-hand side of the document was Lian's name, her age, her hometown, her coach, her choreographer, her parents' names, her competitive record to date, her height and weight (at least the height and weight she was willing to commit to), the name of her music and all of her elements listed in order of performance. On the left-hand side of the document was her name again (Bex had learned she could never write the skater's name often enough as, at her first competition, Francis accidentally turned to the wrong page and was busy waxing poetic about Erin Simpson as Jordan Ares was skating), the correct pronunciation of her name (another thing she couldn't count on Francis to remember), her record to date written in full sentences instead of numbers this time, and such fun biographical data as the fact that Lian had been adopted as an infant from China, that her favorite color was gold, and that "ten years from now I'd like to be a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Harvard graduate, and touring with my own ice show as I finish medical school."
     The future Dr. Skating Star stepped onto the ice and assumed her opening position, arms raised, looking heavenward, her face a mask of deep meditation.
     Francis turned off his mike and mumbled, "She looks like she's surrendering."
     On air, Diana chimed, "Her costume is quite one-of-a-kind and lovely. It took fourteen man-hours to bead it all!  Lian told us earlier that she always wears gold at competition because it inspires her and makes her work harder!" Once again, Bex guessed that Diana thought she had Francis figured out. Since, with Lian's program, Diana had parroted an opinion Francis expressed earlier only to see him turn on a dime, disagree completely, and embarrass her on air, she must have thought that by expressing an opinion she knew he didn't agree with, she would at least be prepared for his inevitable attack on her. Bex was rather proud of herself for figuring it all out. With this being the last event of the season, she felt like she was finally getting somewhere in her decoding of the Howarths.
     Mistake Number Two.
     For both Bex and Diana.
     After a half-century partnership, Francis was inevitably one step ahead of his wife. Instead of giving her the vehement denial she expected, he once again pulled the rug out from under her by—go figure; Bex figured she might as well give it up—agreeing wholeheartedly.
     "Absolutely, my dear. Absolutely. Xenia Trubin may be the best Russia has to offer, but she is no match for America's one-two-three punch of Simpson, Ares, and Reilley. Her technical skills are weak, and no amount of arm waving, rushing from place to place, or rather unseemly—if I do say so myself—spinning positions will be able to cover that up."
     Even as Francis was speaking, Xenia finished up another of her so-called unseemly spins, nose pressed to her knee, bottom in the air, arms—well, Francis was right about that—flapping by her sides, and collapsed on the ice, breathing heavily. After a dramatic respite on the ground of either recuperating rest or ongoing fear of capitalism, she slowly stood up and, after bowing to the judges, waved to the crowd, her face an unreadable mask of not happiness, not sadness, not relief, but determination. Xenia knew that her biggest battle was still ahead. She didn't appear to give a damn that the crowd's applause was perfunctory and lukewarm while they strained their necks to get a glimpse of Erin Simpson, warming up rinkside. When Xenia skated, she gave the impression of not even noticing that the audience was there. All she cared about were the judge's marks.
     Her numbers came up rather quickly. She'd barely sat down in the kiss-and-cry area and taken a parched sip of bottled water and kissed the indifferent flower girl who dumped an armload of limp roses at her feet, before they popped up on the scoreboard, indicating uniform votes. And, indeed, every judge on the panel but one gave her a 5.8 for technical merit, and a 5.9 for presentation. The Russian gave her two 5.9s.
     "Those are a little high," Francis mused, stating the obvious for the service, Bex guessed, of the blind in the audience.
     "But, there's still plenty of room on top for Erin," Diana bolstered.
     "Oh, absolutely, no doubt about it. Erin Simpson is certainly capable of earning straight 5.9s and maybe even some 6.0s for her technique, her jumps are that solid. And, to be honest, her presentation is equal, if not superior to Xenia's."

Murder on Ice: Enhanced Multimedia Edition, complete with skating videos included in the text, as well as all of Alina Adams' Figure Skating Mysteries are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.