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Body Of A Girl [Hardcover]

Leah Stewart
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug. 10 2000
In Memphis, where the heat clings heavy like a second skin, it has been a summer of murders. Olivia Dale's job as a novice crime reporter is at once surreal--stepping in and out of strangers' lives with her notebook--and all too real. As she looks down on the twisted body of a young woman who has been kidnapped and gruesomely killed, she wonders if she could have been that girl. After all, as she chases a lead story, she discovers that Allison Avery--so all-American, so like Olivia in age and looks--was just like her except wilder. Drawn deep into the shadows and secrets of Allison's life, Olivia becomes caught up in exploring her own wild side and finds herself seduced by a perilous world where her life may be in danger. Hypnotic, compelling, and gorgeously written, Body of a Girl is a "must" summer read.

"The secret at its heart will astonish you." --Manette Ansay, author of Vinegar Hill

"This isn't John Grisham's Memphis; it's way more dangerous. Leah Stewart mates the breakneck pacing of Sue Grafton and the creepy depth of Laura Kasischke." --Stewart O'Nan, author of A Prayer for the Dying

"A compelling novel--a thoughtful thriller and page-turner about the rewards and perils of empathy in a culture dominated by sex, drugs, and violence" --Charles Baxter, author of Shadow Play and The Believers

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Product Description

From Amazon

Olivia Dale is making a name for herself on the crime beat at a Memphis newspaper. Her byline means everything to her, and the 24-year-old has cultivated a tough veneer to get her scoops. But that veneer is as fragile as blown glass. The brutal rape and murder of Allison Avery, a charismatic young singer whose life holds, and casts, dark shadows, shatters Olivia's hard- won calm. The remaining question: will it shatter her life as well? Olivia both capitalizes on and privately regrets the enforced voyeurism of her profession. Always on the margin, always watching, always chronicling the lives of others, she wonders what her own life might be missing:

People are like those nested Russian dolls. There's always someone else hiding inside the person you think you know, layer after layer, each with the same painted face. I want to open someone up and hold that last solid little doll in my hand. I know all of Allison Avery's disguises, femme fatale, loyal friend, maternal and corrupting sister, virginal obedient daughter, performer, alive with the magic of her own touch. But who was she at the center? I don't know if I believe in the soul. I'm afraid of the darkness I see in all of us, every one of us a mystery. I have looked in the mirror and not been certain that I saw myself.
As she picks through the contradictory remains of Allison's existence, however, Olivia falls helplessly under Allison's spell. Her quest to discover the truth behind her death slides into an eerie exercise in doubling, as Olivia begins to mimic the singer in thought, word, and deed. Where will Olivia draw the line between self and subject in her terrifying plunge from distance to immediacy? And will it be the merging, or the separating, that carries the greatest risks?

Body of a Girl is at once atmospheric, erotic, and deeply disturbing. So effective is Leah Stewart at capturing the sultry heat of a Memphis summer that the pages practically sweat. It is well-paced and tautly plotted, visceral and gripping. Stewart has mercilessly sketched the potential emptiness at the core of the self, and in doing so has given psychological suspense fans a name to appreciate now and welcome in the future. --Kelly Flynn

From Publishers Weekly

The summer Southern thriller has become an industry clich?, and this novel outwardly cleaves to the formAa 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.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting amateur sleuth tale Aug. 17 2000
Format:Hardcover
In Memphis, Olivia Dale does the cop beat. Although quite young for such an assignment and is not even aware of the names of the cops she reports on, Olivia normally arrives after the police and medical examiners have completed their efforts. This time she happened to hear the report of murder over the scanner and was close enough to beat most of the homicide cops to the scene. For the first time she sees the brutalized corpse lying in the park before the tape prohibits voyeurs and reporters (some might say that is the same).
The victim is Allison Avery, who haunts Olivia, as she seems so similar to herself down to her painted toenails at least to the reporter. An obsessed Olivia needs to know the truth because the similarities between them bedevil her and she could have been the person lying in the park. Olivia begins her own investigation into the life of Allison by flirting with the victim's brother and former boyfriend. Olivia digs deeper into a life that increasingly strikes home.
Though in some respects, BODY OF A GIRL is an amateur sleuth tale, the story line centers more on Olivia's state of mind. Olivia is a complex character whose actions obfuscate the barrier between reporting a story and becoming the story. The support cast, including the victim, exists for readers to dig deep inside the mind of the protagonisst. Purists who enjoy an amateur sleuth examining a murder will probably be a bit disappointed by this tale, but readers who relish a psychological portrait of an investigator who stepped over the line will devour Leah Stewart's debut novel.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Something's Missing July 18 2002
By Elle
Format:Paperback
This book would make a great Sunday night movie. It reads very visually, but I don't get enough of a sense of who the main character (Olivia, not Allison) is. There is so much writing about what she is physically willing to do for a story, which is supposed to show you who she is, but often that does not actually say who the person is. I never really got a sense of that, and I felt like I needed more character development for Olivia. I also felt like the ending was very anti-climactic. The whole story is builds up to a pressure point, and it never quite gets to the climactic point. I think there was also a problem with the focus of the story- was the focus on Allison or Olivia? As an editor, I felt like the book could have used a couple more revisions before its final printing. The main character makes statements about herself, and I'm compelled to ask why she's saying that, but I get no explanation. I think it just needed more of everything.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fun read, a great mainstream thriller March 26 2002
Format:Paperback
I loved this book. It has wonderful writing, strong pace, and a fascinating main character -- a reporter who risks herself to get the story of her life, about a young murder victim who looks like her.
She penetrates the dead woman's world and dresses like her and goes to the nightclubs where she went and interviews her family and friends as she digs up the dirt. The character and personality of the dead woman haunt the narrative. Her fascination with this crime victim is the engine that drives the story. The dead woman's presence is riveting.
This is not your typical hard-boiled mystery, thank heaven. It reads like a mainstream or even literary novel and comes closer to "The Secret History" that to the genre stuff of Robert B. Parker. It swept me up in its world. As a writer myself, I had very few nitpicks, which is unusual. I recommend it highly.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fun read, a great mainstream thriller March 26 2002
Format:Paperback
I loved this book. It has wonderful writing, strong pace, and a fascinating main character -- a reporter who risks herself to pursue a story about a young murder victim who looks like her.
She penetrates the dead woman's world and dresses like her and goes to the nightclubs where she went and interviews her family and friends as she digs up the dirt. The character and personality of the dead woman haunt the narrative. Her fascination with this crime victim is the engine that drives the story. The dead woman's presence is riveting.
This is not your typical hard-boiled mystery, thank heaven. It reads like a mainstream or even literary novel and comes closer to "The Secret History" than to the genre stuff of Robert B. Parker. It swept me up in its world. As a writer myself, I had very few nitpicks, which is unusual. I recommend it highly.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read This Book! Aug. 3 2000
Format:Hardcover
Body of a Girl is so wonderful I can only urge you to order it and read it as soon as possible. Allison Avery is the perfect 'girl.' Beloved by friends and family. Her murder opens up her life... a secret life that may have led to her brutal murder. Olivia Dale is a young reporter who covers the story for her Memphis newspaper. Olivia bears a resemblance to Allison and soon the murdered girl's family and friends open up to her, giving her insight into Allisons life. Olivia is drawn into this shadowy and dangerous world, fascinated by the wild side hidden inside her. Leah Stewart is a wonderful writer . I never thought anyone could hold a candle to Ruth Rendell, but here she is! This book is what a crime novel should be...literate, insightful and most importantly, great fun to read. I look forward to the next book!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling Aug. 24 2001
Format:Paperback
This is a fascinating book, with an amazingly developed protaganist. Olivia Dale is a complex and intense character who will stop at nothing to get the story. A crime reporter in Memphis, Olivia comes upon the case of a dead young woman who looks like her, is her age, and for all intents and purposes, could just as easily have been her or any other young woman in the city. Wanting to get to the bottom of what happened, how, why and by whom, Olivia begins living as the victim might have. She tries to piece the puzzle together by recreating the victim's life and experiences. We watch this woman transform as a person and reporter, and learn a great deal about herself. What are human boundaries, and how far are we willing to extend them in different circumstances? A highly recommended, page turning, thriller.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Stroll Down the Humid, Sultry, Mean Streets Of Memphis!
A 25-year old fledging ace crime newpaper reporter seeks the answers to a night time street murder of a multi-faceted young lady with a surprising resemblance to the reporter... Read more
Published on May 11 2004 by Hans Castorp
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong Debut
I really enjoyed this book. It was one of few I looked forward to while at work. Leah Stewart did a wonderful job of creating believable characters and a suspenseful plot, while... Read more
Published on April 2 2003 by Brendan McCabe
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book, not enough ending
I really liked reading this book. It took a while to get into, but once you knew who everyone was and what they were doing, it really sped along. Read more
Published on Sept. 25 2002 by Holly Hunter
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Transformation of a young amateur reporter!!
The transformation of the main character, Olivia, into her own newspaper crime victim is thrilling. Leah Stewart accomplishes a great task at showing how similar Olivia and... Read more
Published on Aug. 15 2001 by "devhack"
3.0 out of 5 stars Mystery rules
This was a fairly good novel about an amateur sleuth who is helping solve a crime because she's a crime beat reporter and that's her job. Read more
Published on Oct. 21 2000 by John W.
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful debut novel more than just a mystery
A wonderful read. A wonderful experience. Protagonist Olivia Dale's own hypnotic pursuit of self is enough of a therapy session for the common reader. Read more
Published on Oct. 13 2000 by Michael Weber
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally addictive
From the moment I started this book, I was hooked. Every page had me on the edge of my seat. Was there nothing the main character wouldn't do for her story? Read more
Published on Oct. 4 2000 by Raven in a Dryer
3.0 out of 5 stars Long, Hot Summer
On a blazing hot summer morning the body of a girl is found in a Memphis park. She has been beaten, raped, run over by a car and left half-naked. Read more
Published on Oct. 4 2000 by "edwardn"
4.0 out of 5 stars Right on the mark!
Leah Stewart really knows her way around a newspaper office or else has a vivid imagination. She recreates the alienation reporters sometimes experience when they are involved in... Read more
Published on Sept. 5 2000
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