Voluptuous P.I. Savannah Reid isn't a huge fan of diets and she'd rather walk through fire than go to the gym. But when the nation's hottest weight loss guru becomes a suspect in a big, fat murder case, even Savannah can't resist the chance to find out once and for all if the beloved queen of fitness took the "die" in diet a little too far. . .
Weight loss diva Clarissa Jardin became a household name after she transformed herself from flabby to fit with an exercise program she designed. Raking in millions of dollars, Clarissa has the whole world in the palm of her hand--that is, until her husband, Bill, is found mysteriously shot to death.
Detective Dirk Coulter calls P.I. Savannah Reid to the crime scene and it isn't long before Clarissa's squeaky clean image starts to unravel. With the whole world watching this celebrity whodunit, Savannah has to crack the case fast--before another victim gets his--or her--just desserts. . .
"McKevett delivers another amusing tart-tongued cozy that goes down like a yummy guilt-free dessert." --Publishers Weekly
"Witty, charming and should be read next to your winter fire--with a liberal helping of brownies and hot chocolate on hand." --Romantic Times
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A BODY TO DIE FOR
A SAVANNAH REID MYSTERY
By G.A. McKevett
Copyright © 2009
G.A. McKevett and Kensington Publishing Corporation
All right reserved.
Chapter One "You call this place a 'health' club? It looks like a medieval torture chamber. What's so bloomin' healthy about it?" Savannah Reid said as she and her friend, Tammy Hart, stepped out of the women's locker room and into Savannah's idea of "fitness hell."
She shuddered as she looked around the controversial, militaristic gym with its prison-gray walls, bare cement floor, and jungle of sinister-looking workout equipment. Overhead florescent lights sputtered, while a frenetic noise that might have been called "music" boomed around them. The nerve-jarring racket was interspersed with an abrasive, brassy, female voice, screaming at those who were working out to "Go! Go! Go, you tub-o! Move! Move! Move that lard! Work that lazy ass! Don't you dare stop!"
The only thing that might even remotely be considered "décor" was an eight-foot-tall poster on one wall, a picture of a woman with flowing blond hair, wearing thigh-high boots and a camouflage-print latex bodysuit. Savannah could only classify her as a cross between a Marine drill sergeant and a dominatrix.
Savannah elbowed Tammy and nodded toward the sweat-drenched men and women, slaving away at the gleaming steel devices. "They actually pay money to do this ... to listen to her mouth, to get insulted and demeaned like that?"
"They pay big money. Pain doesn't come cheap in Clarissa's House of Pain and Gain."
They walked to the far end of the room, which was slightly less crowded, and found a couple of machines that were side by side and unoccupied.
Tammy removed her camouflage-print sweat suit-the club uniform-revealing a T-shirt, shorts, and a svelte, trim body that even Clarissa Jardin would have to declare "nearly perfect."
She sat on the seat of one of the machines, placed her arms between some cushioned pads, and began to expertly push them together in front of her chest, then release them back to her sides.
Savannah lowered herself onto the machine next to Tammy's and began to do the same.
As Savannah worked muscles that she'd forgotten she had, she glanced down at her own khaki and olive drab sweat suit that she had donned for this undercover gig and began to question her commitment to the assignment.
No doubt, the founder of this fine establishment-and all of its sister franchises across the nation-would not consider her robust figure "perfect." In fact, although Savannah was quite happy with her own body and its curves, she was pretty sure that Clarissa Jardin would consider her a "tub-o." And if you listened to Clarissa's shtick on the talk show circuit, being not-so-svelte put you at the bottom of the human barrel, along with serial killers, puppy drowners, and cupcake eaters.
About a year ago, the fitness diva had moved from Los Angeles to Savannah's hometown, the quaint, Southern California village of San Carmelita. A small, seaside community, their citizenry consisted of wealthy celebs escaping the smog and congestion of the City of Angels; weekend tourists, who were also seeking fresh air and relaxation; and common folks like Savannah and Dirk who made their livings catering to the celebs and tourists.
San Carmelita had buzzed with gossip when Clarissa had moved there. Savannah's opinion had been: Big whoopty-do. Just what we needed ... another loudmouthed luminary with an attitude.
"I'm hating this already," she muttered to herself. "Dirk's going to owe me, big time, for this one."
On the opposite side of the room, their friend, Detective Sergeant Dirk Coulter was already deeply immersed in his undercover persona. Grunting, groaning, and red in the face, he was quite successfully manipulating some sort of contraption with wires, pulleys, and weights.
Not bad for an old fart, Savannah thought as she watched his arm and shoulder muscles bulge with the effort. She had to admit, he still looked pretty darned good in a tank top. She amended the thought to semi-old fart, remembering that, in his mid-forties, he was only a couple of years older than she.
They were really just kids. Okay, kids with twenty-plus years of hardcore life experience. His were cop years. Hers were cop and private investigator years. And, like dog years, those added up fast.
"Yeah," Tammy said. "We ladies of the Moonlight Magnolia Detective Agency don't work cheap."
Savannah didn't reply. There was no point in stating the obvious-that the members of the Moonlight Magnolia Detective Agency hadn't been working at all lately.
No clients. No income. Hence the opportunity to do freebies for Dirk.
"Yes," Tammy said. "After this, old Dirko is going to owe us both a nice dinner at Chez Antoine." She motioned toward one of the nearest machines. "But even better than that, think how much fun it'll be if we nail the perv."
"True. So true." Smiling a nasty little grin, Savannah chuckled to herself as she perused the possible suspects working the rows of equipment.
If they could nab the guy who was somehow taking candid shots of the gym's female clients in various stages of nakedness and posting the pictures on the Internet, it would all be worth it. Heck, Dirk wouldn't even have to buy them dessert at Antoine's.
Savannah had a mental flash of the French chef's dessert cart and quickly modified that thought, too. No, whether they caught this guy or not, Dirk was going to pay, and the fee would be expensive, highly saturated fat calories.
Savannah watched as he paused between repetitions and glanced over at the cute, twenty-something, chickie-poo on the machine next to him. He sucked in his belly, flexed his biceps, and gave the young woman what he no doubt thought was a sexy, come-hither grin.
It was all Savannah could do not to stomp across the room, smack him on the head with a barbell, and remind him that he was old enough to be the gal's father. But she fought down the urge. She was nothing if not the model of self-restraint.
Besides, she had to give him a little credit for the self-confidence-okay, delusions of grandeur-that enabled him to think he had a chance with the girl.
The thought occurred to her: If women could remain as confident in their own beauty as men were in their studliness for so long in life, the world would be a happier place.
"Anybody look suspicious to you?" Tammy asked.
"Not really," Savannah said as she considered their possible culprits.
Clarissa's devotees were a wide demographic, judging from the group assembled in the House of Pain and Gain today. On the rowing machine, a seventy-ish lady in a bright purple and red sweat suit worked those handles like a Roman galley slave. She had a fanatical gleam in her eyes as she stroked in time to the pulsing music, punctuated with Clarissa's admonitions to "Work! Work! Get the rust out of those joints! Get that ugly cellulite off your lazy butt!"
Savannah thought of her own octogenarian grandmother, Granny Reid, and chuckled to think of how the feisty Southern lady would react to Clarissa's brand of encouragement. If anyone were to suggest to Gran that she was lazy or carried any excess baggage, they might just receive a skillet greased with bacon fat upside the head. And along with the corrective smack, they'd get a lecture about how "sportin' a few extra pounds to begin with got a lot of good folks through the dark days of the Great Depression."
Gran was big on stories about the Great Depression, skillet smacking, and the incalculable culinary value of fresh bacon grease.
But Savannah couldn't stop and think about Gran at the moment for two reasons: One, she would start missing her grandmother and be tempted to hop a plane to Georgia. And two, she had a peeping, picture-taking Tom to catch and a life to live here in sunny Southern California ... not to mention a dessert cart full of éclairs and napoleons to eat.
With her priorities firmly in place, she continued to scan the Clarissa Jardin exercise fiends.
The twenty-something hunk hefting barbells near Dirk was a possibility. He was gorgeous, probably of Mediterranean descent, obviously a serious bodybuilder. As he lifted first one weight, then the other, he watched his own reflection in a nearby mirror.
Savannah doubted that he had time or inclination to gawk at anybody's bod but his own.
Tammy seemed to read her thoughts. She leaned close to Savannah, her mouth close to her ear, and shouted above the booming music. "I don't think it's him. He's just into himself."
"Yeah, and who can blame him?"
Tammy giggled. "Dirk's watching you watch him. He's got his jealous puss on."
Looking over at Dirk, Savannah saw that he was, indeed, wearing a frown. And it probably was a jealous scowl, though, with Dirk it was hard to tell. Ninety percent of his facial expressions were scowls.
Savannah grinned and winked at him. "It's okay for him to check out the babes," she shouted back to Tammy, "but heaven forbid we should peruse the dudes."
"He wouldn't care if I were the one looking. He's only jealous of you."
"We're trying to catch a perv here and-"
"Dirk's got it for you bad."
"Nobody's got nothin' for nobody. End of subject."
Tammy snickered. "Whatever you say, boss lady."
"I say ... I think we should keep an eye on the creepo with the potbelly in the too-tight shorts over there." She discreetly nodded toward a middle-aged guy on a stationary bicycle near the window. His electric-blue latex shorts announced to the world that he was neither well-endowed nor circumcised. And both facts were bits of information that Savannah would have gladly lived and died without knowing.
"Dirk should arrest him for wearing those shorts, if nothing else," Tammy added. "If that isn't indecent public exposure, I don't know what is."
"Yeah, really. With any luck, it'll be him."
Savannah continued to hope and work the machines, as she and Tammy moved around the room, trying first one apparatus, then another.
Dirk stuck with his weird pulley contraption, and Savannah was pretty sure he did so to remain close to the bimbo next to him. She made a mental note to mention the fact to him later, to point out what a fool he had made of himself.
Hey, he didn't have a wife to do it. Somebody had to build the guy's character.
And all the time, Savannah watched the weirdo in the blue shorts and hoped he would do something suspicious ... other than dress grotesquely.
But he didn't.
She kept constant tabs on him throughout his short and nonexhaustive workout, but he finished, disappeared into the men's locker room, and left the establishment, wearing skintight jeans and a mesh tank top. And he never passed within ten feet of the women's locker room entrance.
Meanwhile, Savannah's muscles were starting to complain. Bitterly. "This bites," she told Tammy. "Whoever our guy is, he's not here today. We might as well leave."
"Yeah, really." Tammy paused and dabbed a couple of barely there drops of sweat from her brow with a towel. "I need to get out of here and go on my daily run. I want to help Dirk, but this is seriously cutting into my own personal workout time."
Soaking wet with sweat, hurting in every atom of her body, feeling every one of her forty-plus years, Savannah decided not to tumble off the machine, fall onto the floor, and curl into a fetal position. Doing so would lack a certain ... dignity.
"Daily run, my ass," she muttered.
Tammy looked so sweet and innocent. Savannah also decided not to slap her. "Why don't you run along?" she said. "Make it obvious to Mr. Muscles and those older guys in the corner over there that you're on your way to the locker room. Maybe we'll get lucky and one of them will follow you. I'll keep an eye on them while I tell Dirk this gig is over. At least for today."
"You got it."
Tammy gathered her towel, clothes, and water bottle and sashayed toward the women's locker room door. At least, she tried to sashay. Savannah smiled, thinking that she really couldn't expect a Yankee gal to priss properly. If a girl wasn't raised on sweet tea and buttermilk biscuits, a certain wiggle was missing from her walk. 'Twas a shame, but it couldn't be helped.
However, Tammy was fulfilling her duties as bimbo bait quite well. Savannah couldn't help noticing how every set of male eyes followed her friend as she left the room. Undoubtedly, if there was a hardcore, lawbreaking, dirty picture-snapping pervert among them, Tammy's tight, size-zero heinie would draw him out.
Savannah picked up her gym bag, walked over to Dirk, leaned down, and said in his ear, "Okay, big boy. Your girls have enjoyed about as much of this bullpucky as we can stand. We're pulling the plug and heading home."
"Gotcha," he replied, looking as tired and disgusted as she felt. "The magic is pretty much gone for me, too."
She followed his eyes as he watched the girl who had been next to him walk away and head toward the locker room herself. On the way, she stopped and said something to Mr. Bulging Biceps, then gave him a quick kiss.
"Hm-m-m," Dirk grumbled. "And I figured he was gay."
"You think all muscular guys with great hair are gay."
His feathers instantly ruffled. "You like his hair?"
She sighed. "He's got hair, Dirk. Hair is hair. Frankly, I think it's overrated, but-"
"I'm going to. And I've gotta keep an eye on the kid, in case it's a janitor or somebody who works here sneaking in the back door or whatever."
"Give a yell if you need me."
She gave him a sweet smile. Sweeter than he deserved, considering how he'd been ogling the barely legal female next to him. "We always holler out for you, sugar, when we need to be rescued by a burnin' hunk o' manhood."
He lit up so brightly that she felt guilty and didn't have the heart to tell him she was pulling his leg. The only time she "hollered out" for him was when she needed someone to hold down her sofa, eat her popcorn, drink her beer, and watch boxing on her TV.
Or when she needed a dear friend.
She left him and made her way to the door in the back marked "Women's Locker Room." And even though Clarissa was still screeching about the horrors of lard and cellulite, Savannah couldn't help noticing that male eyes followed her own figure, too. Maybe not as many as Tammy's, but she still had her share of admirers.
A good sashay mixed with a hearty dash of self-confidence went a long way when it came to attraction and sex appeal.
She was feeling tired and lazy and relaxed when she entered the locker room, ready to just shower, go home, and kick back.
But the moment she passed through the dressing area and into the showers, a creepy, apprehensive feeling washed over her. The hair wasn't exactly standing up on the back of her neck, but she had the sensation that some sort of threat was nearby.
It was an intuitive warning that she had felt many times before as a police officer and since, as a private investigator. And she had learned, long ago, not to ignore it.
She opened her mouth to call out to Tammy, but thought better of it. Instead, she glanced around, taking in the closed door on the back wall of the long, narrow room, the two rows of shower stalls on either side.
She could hear more than one shower running. The odor of disinfectants, mixed with the floral smells of soaps and shampoos, scented the humid air.
Only three stalls were being used, their plastic curtains drawn. She walked quietly between the rows, bending over to peek at the bare feet exposed between the bottom of the curtain and the floor.
Tammy's perfectly pedicured, hot pink toenails made identification easy. Three stalls away from Tammy were a pair of feet wearing bright red and purple flip-flops-the senior lady from the rowing machine, no doubt.
But it was the feet wearing the sneakers that caught her eye. Sneakers and jeans.
In the stall right next to Tammy's pink toes.
Silently, Savannah crept up to the curtain of Tammy's stall and pulled it aside a few inches.
A wet, sudsy Tammy whirled around, but Savannah pressed her finger against her lips in a silent "Sh-h-h," then pointed to the plastic curtain that separated her shower stall from the one next to it.
Tammy's eyes widened, but she nodded.
At least twenty thoughts and decisions processed in Savannah's brain in the next few seconds, the major ones being: Weapon's in my gym bag. Don't pull it yet. Handcuffs in waistband. No time to call Dirk. Tammy's wet and slippery. Won't be much help.
Excerpted from A BODY TO DIE FOR by G.A. McKevett Copyright © 2009 by G.A. McKevett and Kensington Publishing Corporation. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This series has improved with each installment. I do wish that there would be less emphasis on the Dirk-Savanah relationship. I enjoyed a few installments ago when Dirk's ex wife was involved in a plot.
*Great suspense/mystery thriller. *Wonderful distraction from the real world. Has plenty of suspects to choose from and you will probably be guessing right up to the last chapter. Remember the person most likely to be the one usually is not. Enjoy! *Fun for leisure time reading.
GA Mckevett write a series of Savannah Reid mysteries and I love the development of the same characters. I feel like I'm reading about friends. It was enjoyable and satisfying. I do recommend this book to anyone that likes to read for fun. I know I'll need and Savannah Reid fix before the next book is published.
Just love Savannah Reid!! Such a fun book!!
In San Carmelita, California, plus-sized Moonlight and Magnolia Detective Agency private investigator Savannah Reid and police detective Sergeant. Dirk Coulter team up to catch a peeping Tom at Clarissa's House of Pain and Gain. Soon after that success, insufferable diet queen Clarissa Jardin informs the police that her rascally husband Bill is missing.
Not long after that Bill is found dead with a bullet in his head; Dirk leads the official investigation. Bill¿s mother believes her daughter-in-law killed her son. She hires Savannah expecting her to prove Clarissa was involved in Bill¿s homicide. Savannah agrees with her client¿s theory as the victim was cheating on his spouse and spending her hard earned money gambling. Cooperating, Savannah and Dirk uncover several other people with strong motives especially Clarissa's obese twin sister.
Filled with humor and terrific asides, the latest Reid whodunit is a fabulous investigative tale in what is consistently a strong entertaining series (see POISONED TARTS). The investigation is cleverly designed to keep readers guessing re the twin vs. someone else, but the fun comes from the teaming of Reid and Coulter as the heroine makes it clear you can have your cake and eat it too (in moderation and with not guilt or remorse).