(reviewed by Jenny Dressel Apr 23, 2004)
“… Killer Body is the top weight loss program in the country, in dollars, at least. Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, LA Weight Loss don’t even come close. The secret is the spokesperson…”
Bonnie Hill Hearn’s new novel, Killer Body, is a fantastic thriller that gives us an inside view into the weight loss industry, and the tremendous lengths that people will go through to have the “perfect body.”
Julie Larimore is the spokesmodel for Killer Body. The owner of the company, Bobby Warren, a seventy year old “Mr. Universe” has-been, built his company literally around Julie. Millions of women around the country think they can obtain her looks by following the “Killer Body” fitness and weight loss plan. But Julie has inexplicably disappeared, and Bobby is looking for a new “killer body.”
Rikki Fitzpatrick, a young newspaper reporter, wants to look into the disappearance of Julie, and the new prospects for the spokesmodel position. She has reasons of her own, though. Her cousin, Lisa, a devoted Killer Body member, has recently died of a heart attack. Lisa’s mother is certain that the weight loss program is what caused her daughter’s death.
Rikki agrees to help her aunt, and after seeing one of the media posters of Julie Larimore for Killer Body, she notices something amazing. “I move closer to the poster…The tank dress with its wide belt at the hip is identical to one Lisa wore frequently. The ensemble, the Killer Body uniform, even has the same side slit, the same ankle high boots. And that red pendant that is supposedly modeled after Julie Larimore’s body; Lisa had one just like it. As I look at her there on the poster, I realize that Julie Larimore could have been my cousin.”
Three women are in contention for the Killer Body position. Rochelle McArthur, the aging actress and friend of Bobby’s; “Princess” Gabriella Paquette, the estranged wife of royalty, who is desperate for money; and Tania Marie Camp, the young journalist who had an affair with her media-mogul married boss- she is the current subject on the cover of all the tabloids. These women have been labeled the “Near Fit,” the “Perfect Fit,” and the “Misfit,” by the media.
As Rikki investigates the disappearance of Julie, and delves into the Killer Body Company, it becomes apparent that there’s something “fishy in Denmark.” The company is quite secretive, and no one really knows who Julie Larimore is. She seems to have no past before her association with Killer Body. Also, someone is threatening the new spokesmodel applicants- trying to frighten them away from the position.
Bonnie Hearn Hill has outdone herself with this new book. I enjoyed her first novel, Intern, but Killer Body shows a confidence in her writing that I don’t recall in the previous work. The vivid prose is descriptive and flowing.
The novel is told by varying viewpoints, which has become Hill’s calling card. She manages to delve into these women’s lives with clarity and honesty, using the first- person narrative to delineate the personalities. Rikki appears to be a dedicated journalist, and the spokesmodel characters go to extreme personal measures to try and obtain a body image which is marked by some as “perfect.”
The tension and suspense build up quite nicely, and I found myself literally unable to put this book down. I was resenting other activities in my life because I wanted to finish this book. Hill’s imagination, and the twists and turns this novel takes were extremely clever. I found myself exclaiming “No Way!” in astonishment, as I was ordering take out pizza for my family's dinner, so I could finish the book.If you are going on a plane ride, I urge you to pack this book in your carry on. While reading this thriller, you won’t notice the take off, the landing, or anything in between. At 350 pages, it’s a quick read, but you want the time to finish it in one sitting. If you start in the evening, you will be up late into the night, I promise you. But it’s well worth the lost sleep.
- Amazon readers rating: from 6 reviews
(review and interview by Jenny Dressel APR 20, 2003)
Whats going on? Eric said into the phone, once the group had moved out of earshot.
Its April, Tom said. Her moms been calling the office. She was supposed to be home last night, but she never got there. Shes not answering her phone, either.
If you had watched any of the news channels like CNN or MSNBC during the summer before September 11, 2001, you would be aware of the relationship between U.S. Congressman Gary Condit, and the missing woman, Chandra Levy. In her new novel, The Intern, Bonnie Hearn Hill has untethered her imagination, and created a fictional account based on these circumstances.
April Wayne is a young woman in her early twenties, who has gone missing. She was an aide for California Senator Eric Barry. She was also in love with Senator Barry, and had been having an affair with him. As the story begins, Gloria Wayne, Aprils mother, is looking frantically for her daughter, as April was supposed to return home and didnt. Gloria believes that the Senator is behind Aprils disappearance. Barry was the reason for whatever stunt April had pulled, of that Gloria was sure. Hed done something, said something to set off Aprils hair-trigger temper. Now shed pulled a disappearing act, punishing them all for his ill-treatment of her.
Gloria is a strong and smart woman, who is self-employed as an interior designer, and married to Aprils father, Jack. She realizes early on that the only chance she has to bring her daughter safely home lies in keeping Aprils face and story in the medias attention. She befriends a newspaper reporter, Richard Ryder, and together they become a force in bringing Aprils life, and her relationship with the senator, to the publics attention.
Eric Barry is concerned about one thing -- his political career. He sees the publicity of his affair with April as a complication to his life. It becomes apparent he has been juggling many balls, and the disappearance of April Wayne is threatening his act. He has a wife, two daughters in college, and many constituents who are counting on him, and have believed all he has said for many years. He is determined that the disappearance of one young lady, who he had the misfortune of sleeping with, is not going to ruin all he worked for.
Suzanne Barry, the senators wife, quickly becomes known in the media as the silent wife whose neighbors say is such a nice person. The disappearance of this young girl who she has never met, threatens to bring her world down around her. I am still numb about the headlines and the fact that Eric wont discuss what happened between April and him. He said only that we was meeting with the police, that he had something to tell them that would prove hurtful to both of us and to our daughters. Hurtful, that was the word he used. Not shattering, annihilating. Hurtful.
Hearn Hill has used a method in writing this novel that makes the story interesting, and helps it to move extremely quickly. The chapters are delineated by the number of days that April has been missing. Bonnie Hearn Hill has also told this story through the eyes of all those concerned with Aprils disappearance. Using this strategy, we see into the minds of Gloria, Wayne, Eric Barry, Suzanne Barry, Erics wife, and the public at large. In addition, some of the chapters are flashbacks from April regarding the last days she was seen. I found myself feeling the anger that Gloria felt, and the betrayal that Suzanne felt. I found myself searching for answers as the happy hour crowd at the Hofbrau, a neighborhood bar, also searched for answers. I found the characters somewhat stereotypical, but I enjoyed the authors take on this unsolved mystery. Contrary to the story of Chandra Levy, April Waynes disappearance is solved through the imagination of Bonnie Hearn Hill.
- Amazon readers rating: from 20 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Intern at the author's site
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Huelga House (2001) -- re-released as Deadly Strike (May 2004)
- Johnnie Ray and Miss Kilgallen (June 2002) (written with Larry Hill)
- Intern (February 2003)
- Killer Body (February 2004)
- Double Exposure (April 2005)
- Cutline (October 2006)
- Off the Record (November 2006)
- Focus Your Writing (1995)
- The Freelancer's Rulebook (1998, 2002)
- Literature Circles Resource Guide: Teaching Suggestions, Forms, Sample Book Lists, an Database (2000)
- The Freelancer's Rulebook: A Guide to Understanding, Working With and Winning Over Editors (Expanded) (May 2002
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- Read an interview with Bonnie Hearn Hill at MostlyFiction.com
- The Celebrity Cafe review of Intern
- NewMysteryReader interview on Killer Body
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About the Author:
Bonnie Hearn Hill was born in Yuba City, California and has worked as an editor for The Fresno Bee in Fresno, California, since 1982.
Her articles and columns have appeared in publications such as Writer's Digest, Family Circle, American Writers Review, Editor-Writer, ByLine, and Writing For Money, and she is managing editor for authorshowcase.com.
A national conference speaker and contest judge, she leads a private writers' workshop in Fresno and teaches online fiction classes for Writer's Digest School.