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BODIES TO DIE FOR by Lori Brand: Book Review

Influencers are everywhere, promoting everything.  Gemma Jorgenson is the face and body behind @GymmaGemma, with almost half a million followers hanging on her every word about how she shed one hundred pounds and became a fitness model, personal trainer, and bodybuilder.  Now she’s at the Olympia, the world’s most prestigious bodybuilding competition.  She placed second in the Bikini contest two years in a row, got blown out of the water last year, and decided against competing this year.  However, she hasn’t yet told Rick, her coach, or Chuck, the owner of REIGN, the exercise clothing brand Gemma represents, about her decision.

Then her close friend and fellow competitor, Bianca, is murdered, and Gemma discovers that her husband has a major part of his life that he’s not sharing with her.  Dealing with depression over her friend’s death and anger over her husband’s secrets, she changes her mind and decides to compete in the Olympia, Bikini category, after all.  In addition she’ll try to cope with what she calls Fat Gemma, the part of her that is left over from when she was heavy and had no control over her eating.

Ashley is where Gemma was a year earlier.  She’s always been overweight, a fact she’s frequently reminded of by her mother, a slim woman who watches everything she eats and everything Ashley eats as well.  Ashley’s tried various diets over the years, only to fall off the wagon and regain the weight she lost or even more.  And then she has an “accidental” meeting with Lydia, who is promoting her own agenda, one which is totally opposed to the perfect (i.e., skinny) body.  Before she knows it, Ashley is volunteering for Lydia’s group that is against the Diet Culture.

Ashley’s day job is a software engineer, and she’s very good at it.  Lydia hires her, stressing the need for them to fight against society’s idealization of the ultra-thin body, and Ashley installs ransomware on a clothing network, shuts down a pro-anorexia site, and puts malware on a fat-shaming account.  Now she’s being asked to hack into the patient records of the medical center A New You and steal its patient files.  She’s having second thoughts about this, but Lydia is very persuasive and Ashley is desperate for her approval.

As with all good mysteries, there is more to Bodies to Die For than simply the plot.  The novel raises interesting points about how we view people and make assumptions based on their appearance–their race, their attire, and most definitely their bodies.  We all know that being overweight is a major health problem, leading to many physical illnesses and possibly an early death, but when does society’s attempts to deal with obesity with extreme diets and weight loss pills become an obsession that may become just as detrimental to one’s health as being overweight?

With recognizable characters and a fast-moving story, Bodies to Die For is a book that readers will keep thinking about long after they’ve finished it.  Lori Brand has written a compelling mystery that resonates all too well in today’s world.

You can read more about the author at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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