Cover Me

I Think I Love You

In Deep Voodoo

It Takes a Rebel

Kill the Competition

Our Husband

Seeking Single Male

Too Hot to Sleep

Whole Lotta Trouble

Body Movers by Stephanie Bond
(Mira, $13.95, G ) ISBN 0-7783-2333-1
I have to suspect that the person who wrote the cover copy for Body Movers – “A Sexy Mystery” – did not actually read this book. Is the story actually built around a company that moves corpses? Not really. Is it sexy? Not really. Is it a mystery? Well, not really.

At age eighteen, Carlotta Wren assumed guardianship of her nine-year-old brother Wesley when their father skipped bail after being indicted for investment fraud and their parents disappeared. At the time, Carlotta lost more than her charmed and sheltered existence; her fiancé, Peter Ashford, unable to withstand his family’s disapproval over the scandal, dumped Carlotta and married Angela.

Now, ten years later, Angela makes a point of shopping at Neiman Marcus, where Carlotta now works, and flaunting her fabulous lifestyle. But Angela isn’t the biggest of Carlotta’s problems. Wesley has a nasty gambling addiction and is many thousands of dollars in debt to loan sharks, all of whom are circling and looking for their money.

To make matters worse, Wesley has just been arrested for hacking into the database of the Atlanta city courthouse – a felony – and tampering with the records. Then, Angela Ashford dies suddenly, and Carlotta suspects that it may not have been the accident everyone assumes. Unfortunately, if it was murder, the most likely suspect is Peter, who apparently still has strong feelings for his old flame, Carlotta. Carlotta, however, believes even a bitch on wheels deserves justice, and refuses to let Angela’s death go uninvestigated.

In spite of murder, white collar crime, loan sharks and a corpse moving business, this book is entirely devoid of any kind of tension or suspense. To give you an idea of the pacing, Angela doesn’t die until a third of the way through the book. And it’s not until the halfway point that Carlotta finally decides it may not have been accidental and decides to look into things herself.

But her ‘investigation’ is a joke. Carlotta doesn’t solve the crime – she doesn’t even come close. In fact, watching her investigate is about as nerve-wracking as watching someone get bitten to death by frogs. The murderer (who arrives out of left field, by the way) simply insists on being caught because he’s too stupid to keep his mouth shut.

You’d think loan sharks would up the tension level, but nobody is ever in any real danger. Every time kneecappers show up, the author pulls a rabbit out of her hat – Carlotta finds a valuable piece of jewelry to pawn or someone arrives who just happens to have a thousand dollars in his pocket. Is it scary? Not really.

The reason I say the book isn’t sexy isn’t about the fact that there’s no sex in it; it’s about the fact that there’s no sexual tension. Although the book doesn’t have a hero, there are three potential candidates: the quirkily attractive Cooper, who is Wesley’s boss at the corpse moving business; Jack Terry, the all-American cop who arrests her brother and is assigned to Angela’s death; and Peter Ashford. We see very little of these three men, and the one Carlotta is most inclined toward is the whiney, shallow Peter, a guy that any woman with half a brain would have gotten over years ago. Is it romantic? Not really.

The one character who’s really well drawn is Wesley. Unfortunately, he’s a really well drawn nineteen-year-old gambling addict. This means that he’s a defensive, hormone-wracked adolescent who makes one stupid decision after the next while vehemently denying that he has any problems at all. Is this the kind of character I’m looking to spend time with when I pay fourteen bucks for a book from a publisher of romance and women’s fiction? Um, not really.

Much is made over the fact that this is the first book in a series, but since the author couldn’t think of anything interesting for these characters to do in this book, I’m not exactly panting for the next one. Basically, it’s an expensive, 425-page prologue. Do I think it’s worth it? Not really.

-- Judi McKee

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