Sunday, July 22, 2018

Book Review: 'Slashing Mona Lisa' by D.M. Barr


New York author D.M. Barr has worked in travel marketing, travel journalism, meeting planning, public relations, and real estate. After success as award-winning magazine writer and editor she became a mother and writing is her business. EXPIRED LISTINGS is her debut novel, SLASHING MONA LISA is her second novel and fulfills al the promise of that first excellent book.

Though it is obvious it isn’t Barr’s point to get political she certainly has chosen a topic – the obesity epidemic and how the manner in which people are struggling with both sides of the dilemma – flag waving weight loss companies vs. those who are BBW and see no need to alter that. What she does is offer s a story that puts things into perspective while producing a very fine mystery romance.

Her approach is obvious in the first page – ‘Leticia Regan, the shapely and dark-haired owner of Illinois’ original Blubber Be Gone weight loss clinic, hugged the last of her clients and wished them a pleasant and ‘on target’ week as they wandered back onto the calorie-laden, Chicago streets. The enemies all beckoned: deep dish pizza, Garrett Mix popcorn, Maxwell Street Polish kielbasa, not to mention the b├ęchamel-heavy pastitsio in Greek Town. The majority of her minions didn’t stand a chance against the city’s delicacies, she acknowledged with a twinge of regret, but that was the secret sauce that kept her coffers filled. As she straightened the cartons of BBG boxed meals that lined the shelves, and picked up diet candy wrappers left behind by clients too hungry to wait until they got home, Leticia reflected upon the evening’s meeting. Attendance had been light, only about thirty out of her usual fifty, but that was to be expected, what with all the commotion. She wasn’t too concerned. Weight loss fads were transient and therefore not real competition. Those who had strayed tonight would likely be back next week, contrite and perhaps a few pounds heavier than before. And she would greet them as she always did, with a hug and a smile, reassuring them that if they stayed the course—her course—one day, they’d be as thin and beautiful as they’d always dreamed. She wasn’t in the weight loss business, she’d known that from the start. She marketed the world’s most desirable commodity: hope. She’d quickly learned that hope had no price ceiling, a realization that had catapulted her to the top. In the last two years, her franchise had become the hallmark of the chain, winning awards for both attendance and profit. Not bad for a waitress from Honduras who’d taken her cue from the dining gluttony she’d studied daily, saved her tips, and risked them on one life-altering gamble that had paid off big time. Just as she noticed the BBG signature pink-and-green tote bag on one of the chairs—Mrs. Pascucci must have left her welcome materials and introductory recipes behind—she heard the doorbell’s chime. Had she returned to retrieve them? Scooping up the tote, she headed into the front room. Rather than the 250-pound, curly-haired woman in the Bulls jacket she’d expected, a large figure in a black fedora and raincoat stood on the ‘BBG Moment of Truth’ scale, back turned toward Leticia. Normally, she would have been concerned. While the South Side was rapidly gentrifying, gangs occasionally did roam the streets, remnants of the neighborhood’s past. However, few of them took time to check their weight, so she approached less cautiously than she might have otherwise, eager to add another client to her roster. “Hello, I’m Ms. Regan, the owner of Blubber Be Gone. I’m sorry, tonight’s meeting is over, but we’d love to have you come back tomorrow morning and learn about our program. We open at nine AM.” To her surprise, the figure neither stirred nor spoke. She felt her pulse rate increase, anger at being ignored mixed with unease over a stranger in her midst. Territoriality superseded caution and she approached, putting a hand on the intruder’s shoulder. “Excuse me, perhaps you didn’t hear. I said we’re closed.” “Maybe it’s time you were opened.” The figure turned quickly, pulling a machete from underneath the raincoat and plunging it into the diet clinic owner’s stomach. “Arghhhh—” The tote bag and its contents plummeted to the floor as Leticia staggered backward, torn between shock and searing pain, her eyes staring into the coldest expression she’d ever seen. She fell to her knees, hand on her abdomen, unsuccessfully trying to stymie the torrents of blood pouring through her dress onto the cold, white tile floor. The stranger used a foot to push her onto her back, and she collapsed, feeling the life force slip from her body, the room growing dark. Too weak to move, through the haze she watched in horror as the interloper raised the knife again and brought it down with a vengeance, slicing off half of her right thigh. “Thin enough now?” was the last thing she heard before unconsciousness sucked her into the abyss.’

And from that frightening opening the story progresses – ‘Killer body or body killer? When fat shaming backfires…Most people are dying to lose a few pounds. Not so in Slashing Mona Lisa, where it's the weight-loss advocates who are losing their lives. Whenever Terry Mangel's body acceptance revival meeting rolls into town, local diet execs and "fat shamers" turn up dead, often in grotesque, ironic ways. All single murders in small suburbs, no one's noticed the pattern…until now. Rookie journalist Camarin Torres is a crusader against discrimination, partially to assuage the guilt she feels over the suicide of her obese, bullied twin sister. She reluctantly accepts a job offered by handsome publisher Lyle Fletcher, a widower with a vendetta, who sees Torres as salvation for Trend, his fledgling fashion magazine. Torres, however, detests everything the publication stands for, and joins solely to transform its judgmental, objectifying content. As an unexpected romance blossoms, the overconfident, justice-hungry reporter defies orders and infiltrates Mangel's world—only to find herself in the crosshairs of a vigilante group targeting the sixty-billion-dollar diet industry. Unmasking the killer may save her life but shatter her heart: every clue seems to implicate Fletcher, her mercurial mentor and lover, as the group's mastermind. With a sassy, snarky voice and multi-cultural overtones, Slashing Mona Lisa explores body shaming and its victims: the disenfranchised who don't conform to society's arbitrary norms, and the lengths they will go to for love and acceptance.’

A fine novel with both a solid message and a romance - A Winner! Grady Harp, July 18 I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.











Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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