A young reporter investigates a series of murders involving body image in this mix of romance and thriller.
Camarin Torres is on the brink of graduating from NYU with no full-time job to show for all of her ambition and hard work—that is, until a serendipitous meeting on a train with Lyle Fletcher, the new owner of a failing magazine called Trend. Fletcher, impressed with Camarin’s intelligence and passion for justice, decides that she’s exactly what Trend needs to head in a more serious editorial direction. They also sense a mutual attraction, which Fletcher, a middle-aged widower, feels uncomfortable admitting given his position of authority. On her first day of work, Camarin becomes intrigued by a grisly murder case involving the owner of a Chicago weight-loss organization. A quick search of similar cases yields the insight that a string of killings has followed the revival meetings of Terry Mangel, a man who has made a fortune on programs that tell people to love their bodies just the way they are. Every murder victim has in some way been involved in dieting or fat-shaming. As Camarin becomes more invested in tracking down the killers, she faces the resurfacing of uncomfortable memories surrounding her dead twin sister, who struggled with her weight and self-confidence. Camarin’s passion for her work rises along with her ardor for Fletcher, who, unbeknown to her, has his own secrets concerning these homicides. Barr (Expired Listings, 2016) has a knack for building stakes and maintaining a steadily intense pace throughout. The novel occasionally suffers from clunky lines, particularly in the romance sections, as when a sexually heated Camarin thinks, “While she wanted to stand firm in her resolve against discrimination, her impulsive streak beckoned her to explore the one thing she realized she wanted even more.” But the unusual premise of the murder plot brings a freshness to the thriller sections, and Camarin faces absorbing (if slightly reductive) dilemmas involving the ethics of journalism and the body-image industry.
A love story that becomes elevated by a dynamic psychological crime drama.