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Book Review: Body Parts by Vicki Stiefel

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Body Parts is a grim novel with a spunky heroine that I liked. Vicky Stiefel doesn’t cover any new territory in the first book of her series about Tally Whyte, a Massachusetts homicide counselor, but the familiar landscape is interesting.

The first-person narrative is almost pitch-perfect throughout, and Tally Whyte is a likable character from the first page. She also has an interesting job, one that I wasn’t familiar with, and I enjoyed the peek into the world of a homicide counselor. I figured that grief counselors generally came out of personal funding and didn’t know that the state governments sometimes supplied those.

Upon reading her web bio, I was surprised to find that the author wasn’t and had never been a grief counselor. I was less surprised to learn that she was married to William G. Tapply, another mystery writer I enjoy.

Body Parts introduces readers to Tally’s world, and the journey is a fun one. Tally knows lots of interesting people and has relationships with workers and her sometime lover that provide lots of friction. I enjoyed the semi-mother/daughter relationship with her boss, and the definite points of conflict she has with homicide detective Rob Kranak feel right and deepen both characters.

The mystery/suspense elements of the book aren’t anything flashy or new. A serial killer is murdering beautiful women and chopping off body parts, hence the title of the novel. No one knows why the parts are being taken, other than as possible trophies or souvenirs. In fact, no one knew there were as many cases involved as there are until Tally starts her investigation. That’s standard fare for many suspense novels.

However, the plot jumps around a lot, introducing a number of characters to the point that I had to stop and think every now and again about who this person was. Granted, I didn’t get to sit down with this book nonstop and that probably would have altered my take a little, but not many readers have that kind of time. Also, the story provides legitimate twists and turns that delighted and shocked me, but there are also a number of over-the-top scenarios that I couldn’t completely buy. One particular incident was when Tally was in disguise, sitting beside Kranak, and he didn’t recognize her. I just couldn’t take that seriously.

I also had some problems with the killer’s overall motivation for the murders and body-part snatching. The reasoning is creepy and brings the readers to a nightmarish finish, but I struggled to believe it.

Overall, Stiefel delivers a solid read that will entertain fans of serial killer novels that like a little romance on the side. There are three other books in the series so far, and I’ll be reading those as well.

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