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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