Skating on the Edge (Rebecca Robbins Series #3)by Joelle Charbonneau
Rebecca Robbins, owner of the Toe Stop roller-skating rink, is back, this time joined by a tough and sassy roller derby team, and she has a new puzzling murder to solve.
It's Native American Summer Days in Indian Falls, and Rebecca is roped into taking a turn in the Senior Center dunk tank. That is, until her rhinestone-studded grandfather, Pop, needs help
Rebecca Robbins, owner of the Toe Stop roller-skating rink, is back, this time joined by a tough and sassy roller derby team, and she has a new puzzling murder to solve.
It's Native American Summer Days in Indian Falls, and Rebecca is roped into taking a turn in the Senior Center dunk tank. That is, until her rhinestone-studded grandfather, Pop, needs help setting up his Elvis act. Minutes from climbing into the tank, Rebecca has to find a replacement, and roller derby girl Sherlene-n-Mean is delighted to fit the bill---until she's dunked, electrocuted, and killed. It's obvious that this was no accident. Someone rigged the tank, but who was the intended target? Sherlene-n-Mean or Rebecca?
With a list of suspects in hand and Pop cheering her on, Rebecca starts asking questions. Who disliked Sherlene-n-Mean enough to kill her? Could a father really be capable of murdering his own daughter for money? Why has the bowling alley owner suddenly decided to call a truce and offer Rebecca his assistance? Who was Sherlene-n-Mean? Did her mysterious past catch up with her and get her killed or was she a victim of circumstance? Aided by a trio of self-appointed bodyguard derby girls and caught between Deputy Sean and her sometimes-boyfriend Lionel, Rebecca digs for answers, dodges bullets, and races to find a killer before the killer strikes again.
Joelle Charbonneau's third novel is a gem in a charming and hilarious series.
“Rebecca's amusing third continues to flesh out its continuing characters while providing an eccentric bunch of murder suspects.” Kirkus Reviews
“Charbonneau's fun third mystery featuring roller rink owner Rebecca Robbins...[with] genuine warmth between the characters, the fierce loyalty of the roller derby team, and the distinct thawing of Rebecca's lawman nemesis, Sean Holmes.” Publishers Weekly
Read an Excerpt
I needed to learn to say no. Saying no wouldn’t make me a bad person. Entire ad campaigns devote millions of dollars to explaining why “no” is a good thing. No to drugs. No to drinking and driving. No to saturated fats. Okay, no doughnut-loving American followed that one. Still, I hadn’t gotten the “say no” message. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be scheduled to take my turn in the Indian Falls Native American Days dunk tank sponsored by the town’s senior center.
“Are you ready to climb in?” Agnes Piraino asked. Her voice sounded sweet and reassuring. Her smile was warm. It was just what you’d expect from a retired librarian. I was onto her, though.
Agnes was the one who’d conned me into saying yes to this event in the first place. One of her volunteers, Jimmy Bakersfield, had been told by his doctor that he had to take it easy. That meant falling into a tank of cold water was out of the question. Jimmy was a friend of my grandfather’s and had always been nice to me. I felt all warm and fuzzy when I agreed to take his place. Of course, that was before I saw him strap on a pair of roller skates and zoom around my rink last night. Now I felt like a chump.
“Come over here, dear.” Agnes took my hand and led me toward the tank.
The fiberglass red, white, and blue dunk tank loomed in front of me. The seat suspended above the water had several holes in the vinyl fabric, exposing the stuffing and wood underneath. My butt clenched in anticipation of a splinter invasion.
Agnes’s bright smile said she was oblivious to my angst. “We should probably get you in there. The line is getting a bit long. You’re lucky. We didn’t have many customers yesterday.”
“That’s because no one wants to dunk a senior citizen.” My grandfather’s voice cackled from behind me. “It’s hard to feel good about sending someone plummeting into freezing cold water when they have a pacemaker. Threat of death takes all the fun out of it.”
I turned and reached into my pocket for my sunglasses. Pop was decked out in an open-collared white satin jumpsuit decorated with sparkly red and black rhinestones. His normally white, wavy hair was covered with a black wig. A red and gold scarf hung from his neck.
Pop’s Elvis act was headlining tonight’s festival entertainment. After the music, the town was shooting off fireworks. At the moment, I was hard-pressed to say which would be more flamboyant.
“You look wonderful, Arthur.” Agnes gave my grandfather a smile and blushed. “I can’t wait to hear you sing later.”
Pop smoothed his fake black hair and grinned. “I’ve added a bunch of new dance moves to the act. I think you’ll like them.”
My grandfather executed a double pelvis thrust, which looked painful in the sparkly skintight unitard. Agnes clapped her hands together with delight and batted her eyelashes. I took the opportunity to scope out the best escape route.
The food booths containing everything from corn and pulled pork to deep-fried candy bars blocked off the path to my right. The line waiting to dunk me stretched from the front of the booth clear over and around to the left. To the back of me were other games, a petting zoo, and the large muddy hole where the Indian Falls Bicentennial Fountain was supposed to be bubbling. For once, the political machine wasn’t to blame for the slowdown. The project was approved and ground was broken. Then the mayor’s wife got a look at the design and threw a fit, which meant construction came to a screeching halt. Good for marital harmony, but bad for the park. The hole was an eyesore, and it wasn’t deep enough for me to take cover in. Damn! Unless I wanted to hide in a porta-potty, I was stuck.
“Rebecca, who’s running the rink? Did you close for the day?” My grandfather stopped gyrating long enough to give me a quizzical look.
“George was in charge when I left,” I explained. “He said he would hold down the fort until I got back.” My mother’s death over a year ago left me the default owner of the Toe Stop Roller Rink. I had come back to Indian Falls in May to sell the rink. Only it hadn’t sold yet. Until it did, I was in charge of scheduling staff, ordering concessions food, and promoting the rink’s newest attraction: Roller Derby girls. So far I’d been here for almost five months. Yikes.
Pop grinned and hitched a finger toward the still-growing dunk-tank line. “I think George changed his mind.”
I peered around my grandfather and groaned. George was in line, along with almost every other member of my staff. Most of them were high school students. No doubt a few of them had good aim. Icy water, here I come.
“Rebecca, do you want to change clothes before getting into the tank? We really should get started.” Agnes gave me a firm but gentle shove toward the tank. I took a step forward and caught my foot on a cord snaking along the wet ground.
Oof. I hit the ground with a squish.
Yuck. My hands, my knees, and the bottom of my jean shorts were coated with a combination of grass and mud.
Agnes looked like she was ready to cry. “Oh dear. I didn’t see that cord. I’m so sorry, Rebecca.”
“I’m fine, Agnes,” I pushed myself off the ground and brushed away some of the grass. “Just a little muddy.”
“One of the food vendors must have needed more power.” Pop held out his hand and helped me up. “There just aren’t enough electricity outlets to go around. We’re having problems over by the stage, too. That’s why I came to find you. Your father has disappeared, and I need a manager to help straighten things out. Otherwise we’ll have to cancel the show.”
My father, Stan Robbins, was Pop’s current—albeit reluctant—band manager. Two months back, Pop lent Stan some money. Stan was now playing tour boss for free until his debt was paid off. Only my father wasn’t the most reliable guy around. Not a surprise. He disappeared from my life when I was nine and didn’t reappear for years. Still, the one thing he excelled at was selling the almost unsellable. Pop’s Elvis act fell into that category.
“Oh, you can’t cancel the show, Arthur.” Agnes clutched her hands against her chest. “Everyone at the center is coming.”
Pop grinned. “Don’t worry. Rebecca will handle everything.”
I had no idea what I was supposed to handle, so I wasn’t sure I deserved the ringing endorsement. Still, if it got me out of dunk-tank duty, I was game. “Sorry, Agnes,” I said, trying to keep the relief out of my voice. “Pop needs my help.”
Agnes looked at the growing line. Her tiny shoulders slumped. “What am I going to do? We have to have someone sit in the dunk tank. No one wants to throw balls at an empty seat.”
She had a point. Still, as much as I wanted to make Agnes feel better, I wasn’t about to give up my Get Out of Dunk Tank Free card. Pop needed me for God only knew what, and I was going to help him. Too bad leaving Agnes in the lurch made me feel like a rat.
“Hey, Little Orphan Annie! When’s this show gettin’ on the road? I paid five bucks to send you plunging into icy waters.”
I turned toward the sound of Sherlene Patsy’s booming voice. The derby girl ditched her place in line and crossed the sodden grass to harass me.
Pop’s jaw dropped.
Agnes looked like she was going to pass out.
I just sighed.
Sherlene’s outrageous ensemble made even my grandfather look normal. Bleached blond and six foot one, Sherlene was sporting white leather hot pants with a wide stainless steel belt. Her ample torso was shoehorned into a pink leather bustier with ESTROGENOCIDE etched out in metal studs. To top off the look, about a hundred metallic bracelets tinkled up and down her arms. Sherlene, also known as Sherlene-n-Mean, was one of my rink’s most colorful derby girls. To her it was more than a sport. Roller Derby was a way of life.
Sherlene propped a hand on her hip and said, “Hey, Red, the crowd is starting to get restless.”
“Agnes doesn’t have a volunteer to sit in the tank,” I explained.
Agnes let out a sad sigh and hung her head.
Sherlene’s dramatically shadowed eyes narrowed. “I thought Rebecca was going to be in the tank. That’s what everyone in line is saying.”
“She was going to, but I need her help with the band.” Pop took a step closer and smiled up at Sherlene. “I won’t be able to do my show unless Rebecca straightens things out with the sound guys.”
Sherlene chewed her bottom lip. “The right sound can make or break a show. The sound system at the rink is killer. It’s part of what the team likes about the place.”
“The system here at the festival isn’t half as good. There isn’t enough power for my band’s microphones.” Pop waved his arms and stomped his foot, sending his wig careening dangerously to the left.
“Okay, Rebecca has to fix the sound problem.” Sherlene reached over and adjusted the wig. She then reached into her hair, pulled out a bobby pin, and used it to secure Pop’s rug. “That means I’ll have to take her place here.”
Agnes clapped her hands in delight. “Oh, that would be wonderful, dear. How can I ever thank you?”
“You can let me make an announcement about our match this Friday against the Quad City Queens. We want a sellout crowd screaming for us while we stomp them into the ground and make them cry for mercy.”
Agnes took three steps backward and did a little hand motion in front of her chest. I think she was warding off evil spirits. I didn’t blame her. When Sherlene was in Roller Derby mode, she was more than a little scary.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked.
“Of course she’s sure. Aren’t you, dear?” Agnes stepped forward and turned Sherlene toward the booth before she could change her mind. “Everyone is going to be so excited to hear we have a real celebrity in the dunk tank. This will be the biggest event of the festival. People will be talking about it for years. Do you want to change into something different before we start or are you ready to go?”
Sherlene must have been ready. She climbed up the back steps and folded her tall frame into the tank. In a matter of seconds, the derby girl was seated on the suspended bench and waving to the crowd.
“Hello, Indian Falls!” The crowd fell silent at the low, gravely tone of Sherlene’s voice. Sherlene had a voice phone-sex operators would kill for. “Make sure you come to the Toe Stop Roller Rink this Friday. EstroGenocide is going to blow the roof off the joint!” She pumped her fist in the air, and a bunch of high school kids cheered.
“You gotta admit she knows how to put on a show.” Pop adjusted his spandex crotch. “Maybe I should add her and a couple of the other derby girls to the act as backup dancers. I’ll bet they’d put butts in the seats.”
Scary, but Pop was probably right. Adding the Roller Derby team to the rink’s schedule had brought a flurry of new business in the door. The team didn’t even care that for the past two months the rink had been under renovation due to a large gaping hole in the back wall created by my former rink manager. This Friday we were holding a bash to celebrate the end of construction dust and the disappearance of all evidence of the explosion. Thanks to Sherlene and her team, I was certain to have a wall-to-wall crowd.
Pop and I walked away as Sherlene shouted additional advertisements. I think she even promised the one thousandth fan a car, but I was too far away to be certain.
“So, what happened to Stan?” I asked my grandfather as we dodged cotton-candy-carrying kids playing tag. “I thought he was starting to get into the idea of being a band manager. You even said he was doing a good job.” That said something, too. Pop and Stan’s mutual dislike was legendary.
Pop shrugged, sending the rhinestones on his shoulders into prismatic ecstasy. “Got me. I woke up this morning and he was gone. He left a note. It said he was helping a friend paint today and to call if the band needed him.”
“Did you call?”
“His phone service was shut off last week. He even left the phone sitting on the table right next to the note. The man is a pimple on my butt.”
I shook off the image and waved to three of the members of Pop’s band. They were milling around the stage, decked out in red and gold rhinestone-studded bowling shirts. The rhinestones were added when they decided to back up Pop’s Elvis act. Who knew Elvis and a mariachi band could work so well together? If Pop could actually sing, they would be great.
“So.” I turned to my grandfather. “What do you need me to do?”
“The sound guy is over there. We need power for two more microphones for Eduardo and Miguel, and they say mine is overloading the system. My fans won’t be happy if they can’t hear me.”
I wouldn’t bet money on that. Still, I told Pop I’d do what I could to remedy his problems. He smiled and said something to Miguel and Eduardo. To me it sounded like “Nieva adonde ayudame. Sí?”
The band guys nodded and laughed. So I had to ask, “What did you say, Pop?”
“I told the guys that my granddaughter was going to be a big help. They’ve been teaching me Spanish.”
Not very well. I didn’t take Spanish in high school, but I’d lived in Chicago long enough to have lots of friends who spoke the language. “I think the word for granddaughter is nieta, Pop.”
He looked at Eduardo for confirmation. Eduardo’s eyes twinkled as he nodded.
“Well, damn.” Pop frowned. “I guess I’m going to need a few more lessons.”
A scream echoed across the park. Then several more. Cries of “Oh my God” and “Get a doctor” rang out. Instinct had my feet in motion, and I raced toward the voices. I could hear Pop huffing behind me, but I outdistanced him and reached the crowd surrounding the dunk tank in less than a minute. I couldn’t see what had caused the uproar, but my heart clenched as I pictured kindhearted Agnes. She’d had a rough couple of months. I just hoped they hadn’t caught up to her.
“Is she okay?”
“How could this happen?”
I pressed through the clumps of freaked-out people and finally got to the front, where my sometimes archnemesis, Deputy Sean Holmes, was leaning over someone. I was relieved to see it wasn’t Agnes. She was standing nearby looking pale and stricken.
Sean stood up and raked a hand through his ash blond hair. He looked stunned. Pulling out his cop phone, he hit a button and said, “I need the sheriff at the festival dunk tank, and you need to call Doc and the paramedics. We have a woman not responding.”
Sean took a step to his right and turned his back as I looked down at the ground. The world tilted. Sherlene Patsy, Roller Derby diva, was sprawled out on the muddy ground. Her clothes and hair were soaking wet. Her makeup was smeared.
And unless I was mistaken, she was dead.
Copyright © 2012 by Joelle Charbonneau
Meet the Author
Joelle Charbonneau has worked as a professional singer and actress and currently is a private voice instructor. She lives with her husband and son in Illinois.
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Skating on the Edge is the third, and by far the most heart racing, novel of the quirky mystery series penned by Joelle Charbonneau. The series so far has perfectly portrayed the fun of owning a roller skating rink in a small gossipy town, but this round, readers get a deeper look into of the heart of Rebecca Robbins. The previous novel, Skating Over the Line, features the first appearance of the roller derby team, EstroGenocide. In Skating on the Edge, one of their own is murdered and the rumors floating around say it should've been Rebecca. Armed with a list of potential suspects, Rebecca takes the initiative to find the murderer while attempting to put her life back in order. Well, in as much order as possible with an Elvis-impersonating grandfather, scheming, sneaky father, and maid of honor duties. Charbonneau really knows how to work with mysteries in small towns, where everyone knows everyone and gossip is the number one source for entertainment. Her ability liven up the story and keep it going while Rebecca struggles to solve the murder case, an element found in all three mysteries in this series, is commendable and a highly favorable trait of her writing style. After reading the crazy events of this novel, readers who haven't fallen for Rebecca Robbins will do so quickly and surely. Skating on the Edge will blow you over with a fun, fabulous plot, and anticipation of what could possibly come next! *eGalley provided through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review and blog tour purposes*
Loved this one. There is always something interesting happening at the Skating Rink. Love that it was derby related this time.
Rebecca Robbins is the owner of the Toe Stop roller-rink where a tough roller derby team practices. One of the roller derby girls is murdered when she takes Rebecca’s turn in the dunk tank at the Native American Summer Days. Rebecca knows she must solve this murder before someone actually manages to kill her. Skating on Edge is the third of the Rebecca Robbins Mysteries. I did not read the first two, but was easily able to follow this one and enjoy it. The characters were quirky and fun and made me laugh many times. The plot was fun and easy to read. Being from a small town myself, I could relate to the everyone knows everyone and the gossiping for information. I loved following Rebecca as she questioned suspects, followed clues, and finally managed to solve the murder. She did most of this with the towns law enforcement a couple steps behind her. There were times I thought I knew who dunit, but then something else would happen to make me doubt myself. By the end I was pretty sure that I knew who the murder was and loved how it all played out. This book is fast and easy and will keep you laughing throughout. I recommend this book and will be reading the rest of the series.
Let me start off by admitting that I haven't read the first two books in this series, but after having read Skating on the Edge, I most certainly will make a point of reading them! Wow! This was such a fun and exciting story, and I quickly became engrossed in the lives of each and every character. Charbonneau has an easy writing style that helped me settle into the story from page one and it held on tight until the very end. Rebecca Robbins is a strong MC who doesn't take an ounce of nonsense from anyone, especially resident Deputy, Sean Holmes. Even when she's fretting for her life, Rebecca puts on a brave front and goes about her usual business like nothing life-threatening has ever happened. When Rebecca’s replacement at the dunk tank is murdered, the biggest question is who was the murderer’s real target – Rebecca or Sherlene-n-Mean? A series of deadly events made it clear who the killer was after…why, was still the elusive question. And, was the stunt at the dunk tank really supposed to have killed anyone? I really enjoyed being with Rebecca every step of the way as she interrogated suspects, dug up clues, and pieced together the mystery.. Although a number of people had the means and ways, even the motive, there was never a time when one person stood out from the rest and I could actually say “Aha, it was so and so!” The mystery was kept alive throughout the story until the very end, making it feel like I was involved in a game of Cluedo!! And then of course, as small towns go, there were many smaller dramas going on around the main mystery: The miraculous discovery of ancient native artifacts, Rebecca’s somewhat eccentric grandfather and his womanizing ways, her strange father who showed little to no interest in her, a phony psychic and a curse. But my favorite of all was the not so obvious love triangle. Rebecca clearly cares for Lionel and I wish there had been something more to solidify their relationship, one that I’ll get to know a bit more about once I read the first two books, but I have to agree with Erica, there were definitely sparks between Rebecca and Sean. They had great love/hate chemistry and I see it developing into a whole lot more as the series continues. This was a fun, quick read, with many interesting characters and an even more captivating plot.