Ugh! This first-in-the-series 1999 mystery was creepy in ways the author never intended. The heroine is a diet group leader; the victims, members of the group. Even given that setting, the morbid fascination with weight and eating overwhelms this routine plot. There are near-fetishistic descriptions of tongues and teeth and lips in the act of mastication. Also overdone is the implicit contempt for people who are heavy.
In this book, fat people are stupid and crude (confusing semen with "piss" -- I ask you!); fat people are smelly, dirty, and ugly; fat people are wife beaters and worse; fat people don't want, deserve, or get to have sex (but people celebrating losing weight are so attractive and so lusty, they can't even wait to get home).
Our murderer is seen as extra-evil because he's killing off the soon-to-be-thin. The subtext is that the death of a fat person is not as much of a loss (forgive the pun!), and the death of at least one of the victims is greeted with, "Oh, but she was so close to her goal weight!" That's the tragedy -- not that she's dead, but that she died before making goal. The author also spends a great deal of time noting that one near-victim escapes burning alive through a narrow window only because she had lost so many pounds and inches; had she not, well, fry-time! And it would have been her own fault, so there!
Of course, all this applies only to the unrepentant fat. People trying to lose weight are treated with elaborate faux-pity disguised as treacly "support."
The heroine fulfills all the Stupid-Woman clichés of the genre. She boinks the detective, with no regard for the conflict of interest therein (and if the heroine doesn't notice it, surely the author should?) She tells him, over and over, that she's a pretty good detective herself, though there is nothing in the book's set-up to suggest this. She insists, completely without foundation, that the deaths of four people of her group of twenty or so -- in a single week -- must all be accidents, and not murders at all. She not once but several times intentionally evades the guards which have been set on her for her own protection. She turns felon to "obtain evidence" -- evidence which could never, of course, then be used in court, right? So let's add obstruction of justice to breaking and entering, not to mention remorselessly lying to her new lover and putting his job at risk amid great professional embarrassment -- none of which the author mentions even in passing. And last but not least, during the inevitable chase scene, she -- what? you know this part? -- SHE FALLS DOWN. Yes! Not even over a tree root! Not even from a broken heel! She falls down because, well, that's what women in peril DO.
I picked up (at the library, thank goodness) a couple of other books by this author but just couldn't get started. The weight fascination continues in 2000's "Beat Up a Cookie" -- the back cover's focus on the heroine's 55-pound weight loss was enough to turn me off that one, though since it's part of this series, you'd expect some of that. But I'd also picked up "Fifty Cents For Your Soul," a slightly-out-of-genre horror mystery with an entirely different cast of characters, written in 2002. By the third sentence of Chapter One, the heroine is obsessing on skim milk versus whatever, and that did it for me. Ptui!
If you want mysteries about food -- with a heroine who wants to lose weight but doesn't need to mention it on every page -- try the first eight books in the Goldy Bear catering mysteries by Diane Mott Davidson. Until the series goes irredeemably bad with book #10 (Sticks & Scones), those books are pretty darned good, and while Davidson lets her heroine slip into Stupid Woman behavior now and then, at least it's NEW behavior (being manipulated by her son, not calling the cops often enough on an abusive ex) instead of the old standards Dietz serves up amid all the rice cakes and carrots.