The Body of a Girl

Leah Stewart, Author Viking Books $23.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-670-89164-1
The summer Southern thriller has become an industry clich , and this novel outwardly cleaves to the form--a plucky Memphis crime reporter investigates a grisly murder, rubs shoulders with local lowlifes and even participates in a drunken showdown on Beale Street. But debut author Stewart crafts a novel more serious and sensitive than the average whodunit. Olivia Dale, a young, dedicated reporter who works the police beat despite the protests of her protective boyfriend, tackles the story of recently raped and murdered Allison Avery, who worked as a nursing tech in a medical clinic and dreamed of becoming a rock singer. As Olivia interviews Allison's family and friends, she begins to identify with her subject, who emerges as a bright, funny woman with a physical resemblance to Olivia. Captivated by the case, Olivia starts to imagine herself the murder victim. She carries on a dangerous flirtation with Allison's young brother, dances with Allison's obsessive ex-boyfriend and is tempted to experiment with the drugs that may have played a role in Allison's death. Olivia's fixation gives Stewart the opportunity to comment on the blurry line between reality and reporting, and on the frightening realization that crime can strike at random. Yet in defusing the mystery of Allison's death, and focusing instead on Olivia's inner life, Stewart neglects to provide a satisfying conclusion to the unsolved murder. As a result, even the evocation of Memphis's sweltering summer heat can't bring Stewart's tale to a rolling boil. Agent, Gordon Kato. Author tour. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
Paperback - 311 pages - 978-0-14-100199-9
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 978-0-7865-2797-7
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-7865-2446-4
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-101-19048-7
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