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The Body of a Girl Hardcover – August 7, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (August 7, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670891649
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670891641
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,491,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

4.2 out of 5 stars
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I look forward to the next book!
Eustacia Vye
Olivia is a complex character whose actions obfuscate the barrier between reporting a story and becoming the story.
Harriet Klausner
Stewart's writing style perfect for the tale.
Raven in a Dryer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on August 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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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Eustacia Vye on August 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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By William Aaron on August 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have to say there are not many books I just can't put down, but this was one of them. Leah Stewart has done a remarkable job of luring you in so easily you don't realize how engaged you are before it's too late. I'm not normally a mystery/thriller reader, but this was recommended by a friend, and I'm really glad I picked it up. The book is terrific -- hard to believe it's a first novel!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "edwardn" on October 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
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. This gruesome discovery sets in motion an intriguing plot. A female crime reporter becomes involved in the case of the murdered girl, and tries to keep the investigation on the front page as the police encounter dead-ends. As the reporter uncovers more and more about the murdered girl, she begins to relate and even aspire to the vistim's personality traits. The author enjoys placing her heroine in dangerous situations, crafting an intense storyline that applies to all women who do not feel safe alone in an urban environment.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Brendan McCabe on April 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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 also brilliantly conveying the atmosphere of it's setting - Memphis. This is my favorite book of it's kind since Mystic River, and I look forward to more from this author.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert W. Macdowell on July 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
Body of a Girl is dubbed as a cross-genre literary/ mystery novel. I personally hate labels and peoples' need to categorize everything into neat little categories. Screw that I say. Body of a girl is quite simply a well-written, novice newspaper-reporter-turned-sleuth novel. It is a story of a young journalist--motivated as much as she is naive--beginning her career (ironically paralleling the author's life, in some sense) and trying to remain true to who she is among a seedy, often cruel and corrupt world. And like the author's true life symbolically mirrors that of the main character, so does our main character spend much of the novel peering into the looking glass of the victim's life who eerily also mirrors her own; and, hence, we have a tridimensional dynamic in the deep, deep underlying machinations of this literary work which (for me) gave it real substance and made for an undeniably genuine and fulfilling read.

On a lighter note, I really enjoyed the precise prose, even pacing, well-developed characters, sweltering setting, and most importantly: the author's willingness to take risks. What makes this novel really shine is the author's willingness to give us a main character who takes chances and assumes risks that catch us completely off guard. I often found myself saying, "No way she is going to do that." And, sure enough, she did. This however, is also my main gripe. I think the author needs to continue taking risks! Body of a Girl looked to be the beginning of a special journey into a darker, rawer realm of confronting one's own desires, fears and deep internal thoughts: the dialogue we hear and let run rampant in our daydreams but do not dare share publicly. I felt a crack of this door opening and saw a splay of light fantastically beginning to shine through . . .
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